Chef Adrianne Calvo is channeling the strong women in her life with the opening of Forte, her new Coral Gables restaurant, located in the former Cibo Wine Bar space on Miracle Mile.
Calvo has teamed up with Barreto Restaurant Consulting, which also has a stake in Redfish by Chef Adrianne, to open the 260-seat indoor/outdoor eatery, named after Calvo's mother, Maggie Forte, who's of Sicilian heritage.
"Traditionally people honor their father's last name, which is passed down through generations, but I decided to rethink that," Calvo tells New Times.
Calvo explains that once she walked into the space, she knew that it would be an Italian restaurant filled with the same flavors and aromas she remembers from her youth in Chicago.
"When I first saw the restaurant, I felt overwhelmed. My mother owned a hair salon in an Italian community in Chicago and I grew up listening to the ladies while they got their hair done." The main topics of conversation, recalls Calvo, were family and recipes. "At Christmastime there was an insane amount of food that would come into the beauty shop."
The chef decided it was time to pay tribute to that strong female energy. "With the current climate of the world in general, and with the country getting its first female vice president, I thought it was the right time to honor the women in my life."
When Forte opens in April, Calvo intends to showcase the flavors of Italy with ingredients sourced directly from some of that nation's most famous growing regions. "I want to bring olives in from a village so small you haven't heard of it yet," she says.
The menu is not yet finished, but the chef says that she'll take inspiration from the island of Sicily, which is known for its seafood.
A wood-burning oven will also fire up vegetables and cuts of meat.
"You'd be surprised how delicious vegetables can taste when they're dressed with some good olive oil and Italian herbs," Calvo says. "Real Italian food is not five pounds of pasta. It's a multicourse dinner."
That said, there will be pasta on the menu, simply prepared to honor the ingredients.
"The best things take time," Calvo says. "A simple pasta dish like cacio e pepe takes a few minutes to prepare, but it took you an hour to make the pasta fresh and three years to age the cheese."
The chef says she'd planned to take several trips to Italy to research cooking techniques and hunt for ingredients, but COVID put a hold on any culinary journeys for now.
"Once everything opens, I will be taking regular trips to Italy and sharing my experiences so that people will understand where I am and why I'm sourcing the ingredients the way I plan to," she says.
This restaurant, Calvo adds, might be her most personal endeavor — right down to the furnishings. Instead of hiring a restaurant design team, she and her staff are working on the interior.
"It may not be the prettiest restaurant, but it's all me," she says. "At the end of the day, we want to feed people. When you walk through the doors at Forte, I want you to feel like you're coming to sit down with my family. I want you to feel like you're coming to my home."
In spite of the pandemic, Calvo has been busy. It has been less than a year since she took over the kitchen at the renovated Redfish in Matheson Hammock Park. She also moved her 60-seat namesake, Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar, to a massive, 8,000-square-foot space at the Palms at Town and Country in Kendall.
"The pandemic has shown that people will cut themselves off from anything, but not restaurants, because the experience of sharing food enhances our lives," the chef asserts. "Miami has accepted us and carried us, and we felt that this is a great time to give the city a new warm and inviting space. "
Calvo also makes a cameo in a new video starring Farruko, IAmChino, El Alfa, Omar Courtz, and Pitbull called "Ten Cuidado" and is creating a 12-part culinary series set to premiere April 16 on You Tube. Titled Searching for Maximum Flavor, the series will follow Calvo as she travels the United States in search of interesting foods, then brings the recipes home to Miami.
The chef, who is also working on her MBA from Harvard Business School, says the formal education has helped her grow her own business.
"A restaurant really straddles two worlds," she says. "The kitchen and its creative element is one world, but there's also the business side of a restaurant, which is equally important. Finding unison is what makes eateries excel."
Forte. 45 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; fortemiami.com. Opening slated for April 2021.