Roughly five months after opening as a pop-up in the East Village, rustic Italian restaurant Forsythia has moved into its permanent home on the Lower East Side. The expanded restaurant space, located at 9 Stanton Street, between Bowery and Chrystie Street, opens its doors for outdoor dining tonight.
“We’re incredibly excited to have the restaurant finally opening. It’s been a long time coming,” says Jacob Siwak, chef-owner of Forsythia and a former maitre d’ at Olmsted in Prospect Heights. The Italian newcomer, originally slated to open over Memorial Day weekend in May, was put on hold for five months due to the pandemic but has been operating out of a smaller, temporary pop-up kitchen in the East Village since June.
There, Siwak teamed up with veteran Italian chef Mark Coleman — the former chef de cuisine at Rezdôra and a former sous chef at Marea — and the duo served central Italian and Roman dishes served in make-at-home meal kits, takeout tasting menus, and, eventually, limited outdoor dining in the restaurant’s backyard. Despite those limitations, the restaurant’s dinner seatings regularly sold out and reservations at the new restaurant space had almost entirely booked three weeks out, before it even opened its doors.
Several dishes from the East Village pop-up have found their way to the permanent restaurant’s menu, including its peppery spaghetti carbonara and suppli, a bite-sized appetizer that Siwak likens to fried cacio e pepe. Other dishes have been brought on as seasonal additions to the menu, with help from the neighboring Union Square Farmers Market, such as a baked polenta gnocchi and a scarpinocc pasta stuffed with a mixture of honeynut squash, taleggio cheese, and fried sage.
Not unlike the restaurants that Siwak and Coleman trained at, the menu at Forsythia leans slightly upscale, with appetizers ranging from $10 to $16, housemade pastas from $15 to $24, and main dishes from $20 to $29, according to a spokesperson for the restaurant.
To start, Forsythia will be serving its food for outdoor dining only, with seatings available in a heated, waterproof outdoor dining area. The expanded outdoor space, which will stay open through the winter, offers 14 seats for outdoor dining with three dinner seatings each night, compared to the two seatings Siwak was able to offer at the summer pop-up. Customers will eventually be invited inside the restaurant’s dining room, though that’s not likely to happen until later in November, Siwak says.
Ahead of opening for indoor dining, Siwak has installed several precautionary measures to reduce the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19, he says, including new ventilation systems, units to increase air flow, and two windows at the front of the restaurant that allow it to fully open onto the street. When the restaurant opens in November, each of its indoor tables will be spaced at least 15 feet apart, he says.
Forsythia is now open for outdoor dining from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.