Fornino: a wood fired pizza staple in Greenpoint

Owner Michael Ayoub with a meatball pie at Fornino. (Alex Mitchell)

Renowned chef and Fornino owner Michael Ayoub was doing artisan pizza in Brooklyn before it became cool, he said just before having kneaded up one of those signature, wood fired pies in Greenpoint.

That pizza restaurant has been cooking since 2004, when the chef wanted to bring something unique and elaborate to pizza.

“Nobody was doing things sopressata on pizza at that time,” Ayoub said.

A Brooklyn guy through and through, Ayoub grew up in Bay Ridge where he recalls many nights spent at the local slice joint called Pizza Wagon on Fifth Avenue down by 86th Street.

Ayoub explained that pizza wasn’t given the red carpet treatment back then and was primarily for takeout and a quick bite — as opposed how it’s now become borderline gourmet and certainly a sit down meal.

Fornino bridges the gap between those two styles, offering a delightful dining experience with a reliable takeout option, something not always feasible with craft pizza. 

That’s due to dough hydration, the chef explained, noting that he uses more than the average New York pie but not so much that it gets ruined in a cardboard box.

Truly knowledgeable to the nuances of pizza, Ayoub’s divided his extensive menu into three separate generations of the Italian treat.

Starting with the original pies that are recognized by the Italian government — better known as the classic variations of margherita pizza.

Then there’s the second generation part, which is divided into the provinces of Italy and the specialties each was known for. 

Finally, there’s the third generation. 

“That’s us,” Ayoub told, about his near 15 ‘modern’ offerings (including one named for Al Roker) that come in addition to nearly a dozen others. 

In accordance with March 9th’s National Meatball Day, Ayoub had whipped up some specialty meatball pies being offered at Fornino for the week.

He makes those mini meatballs in a very old school style, using pecorino romano cheese and “plenty of parsley” at the demand of a 94 year old woman and mentor to Ayoub.

More than just food, the passionate chef is also responsible for much of Fornino’s decor, specially the glasswork.

In his little spare time from running the culinary business, Ayoub has found a passion in glassblowing and its displayed throughout the restaurant.

The elaborate and vibrantly done glass chandelier was individually made piece by piece, according to the renaissance-man and owner.

Fornino will also be re-opening its al fresco location overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline within upcoming weeks as well. 

Fornino, 849 Manhattan Ave Greenpoint, (718) 389-5300. Hours vary.