Like his pizza, Michael Ayoub’s career as a pizza man has been circular — when he opens his second outpost of Williamsburg pizza spot Fornino this week in Park Slope, he’ll be returning to the space where he first made his mark nearly 20 years ago at Cucina, once the lone high-quality eatery in Park Slope.
This time, though, he’ll be taking on grilled pizza — his “other love.”
“It’s surreal,” said Ayoub, of his return to the former Cucina space. “It’s like putting on an old sweater again.”
These days, both Ayoub and the concept have grown up a little bit.
“As a chef, I really like to challenge myself. Grilled pizza isn’t really done in New York and it’s certainly not done round,” said Ayoub, adding that grilled pizza affords for more delicate toppings, like softer cheeses, that can’t handle the heat of a 1,000-degree wood-fired oven. That is, pizzas like his Gorgonzola with Fior di Latte, figs and arugula ($14).
Fornino really shares only a name and general enthusiasm for pizza with its Williamsburg precursor. Aside from grilled pizza, Fornino Park Slope will feature a much-expanded menu that includes a wide range of pastas, antipasti, entrees and homemade sausages like the chicken apricot and tallegio with broccoli rabe ($15). It’s also a relative behemoth at 165 seats.
“It’s really cucina de la nonna [grandmother’s kitchen],” said Ayoub “The only thing missing is grandma serving it to you.”
Fornino [256 Fifth Ave. between Garfield Place and Carroll Street in Park Slope, (718) 399-8600].