When my friend Laura and I met at the new Trattoria Fortunata in Saratoga Springs, all we could think about during the first moments at our cozy table, with its fresh flowers and red-and-white-checked tablecloth, were crepes and pommes frites. For more than 20 years, this friendly nook on Phila Street was the home of Ravenous, the city’s French-inspired creperie.
Now Kyle Geniti, a 28-year-old Fonda native with a college degree in biochemistry and English, is the chef/owner, and Saratogians are buzzing about his Italian-American and contemporary American cuisine, which one can enjoy as casual dining or through takeout.
Geniti, who named the place after his great-grandmother and borrowed some of her recipes, may be young but he’s paid his dues in the restaurant biz, with jobs at Saratoga’s 15 Church, Harvey’s Restaurant & Bar and Druthers Brewing Company. Most recently, he was executive chef at Taverna Nova on Beekman Street.
Trattoria Fortunata debuted in April with takeout only, offered limited dining in May and officially opened with a ribbon-cutting on June 9.
Brittney, the chef’s significant other, commands the dining room with exceptional warmth and attention. She kindly answered all our questions even when every table was taken on a no-horse-racing Tuesday. Yes, they are still awaiting their liquor license and soon they hope to serve lunch. They plan to make their own pasta and cannoli.
As we sipped fizzy Saratoga water, Brittney directed us to the QR code posted at our table, which zipped us to their menu.
There are 16 choices and half of them are plant-based or vegetarian, including an Impossible Bolognese, made with the popular plant-based meat alternative. You can add chicken, pancetta, roasted tomato, Calabrian chili, Hot Crispy Oil (see note at end of this review) or shrimp to any pasta dish.
When Brittney arrived with a basket of bread, we could see the heat rising through its cloth napkin cover. And oh, the lemon herb butter. I usually skip the spread, but this was so delightfully citrusy I dabbed my knife into it and licked it off.
Laura is a french-fry fiend, and she’s eaten them all over town, so Truffle Parm Fries was her appetizer of choice. She was awed by the enormous heap of crispy, hand-cut potato sticks, sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano and chives. Each bite was truffle-licious, as both the white oil and black paste were evident. There was enough for three people to share.
“These take fries to a whole new level,” Laura said.
I selected the Vegetable Arancini, a fried, bread-crumb-covered rice ball and Sicilian staple that usually has some kind of filling. These pudgy little monsters were different: a creamy medley of minced broccoli rabe, roasted tomatoes and artichokes seasoned with romano. So many flavors in every bite, and did I mention that they were capped with crumbles of honey herb goat cheese? Again, the serving, five of them, was large.
Laura’s entrée was Vegetable Risotto, arborio rice with bits of broccoli rabe, roasted tomato, shallot and artichokes; a blend of flavors livelier than most risotto dishes. “Unbelievable,” declared Laura. “These tomatoes are so amazing.”
I had heard good things about their Bolognese, so I jumped on that and picked potato gnocchi instead of penne or rigatoni. The rich, slow-cooked meat sauce with its sweet hints of wine was the best kind of classic Italian comfort food. Yep, I’m pretty sure I felt great grandma’s love in this belly-warmer.
“Mmmm,” said Laura as she speared a gnocchi off my plate. “Wouldn’t that be good on a cold night in January?”
As we departed, we vowed to return and then shared our critiques, noting that Trattoria Fortunata is off to a strong start but still in its infancy. A nice cool house salad would have been a lovely light counterpoint to our carb-laden dishes. Right now only one salad choice, a Caesar, is available. The option of ordering a small plate instead of a full entree might be good, too. Our take-home bags, to which we added desserts of mini cannoli, were hefty.
Hot Crispy Oil (aka HCO) is a condiment made from fresh garlic, shallots, chili peppers and olive oil. It was created by Saratoga Springs native John Trimble, owner of Albany’s La Serre restaurant, and is available in Capital Region stores.
WHERE: 21 Phila St., Saratoga Springs; 518-886-8672; trattoriafortunata.com, Facebook, Instagram
WHEN: 4:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 4:30-8:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday
HOW MUCH: $81 without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Not yet licensed to serve alcohol. Takeout available, handicapped accessible.