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Forked & Sticked 

Sebastopol's Forchetta/Bastoni a unique pairing

click to enlarge MAIN STREET MASHUP Steven Peyer and Jamilah Nixon bring Italian and South Asian street food together in Sebastopol. - MARIA TZOUVELEKIS
  • Maria Tzouvelekis
  • MAIN STREET MASHUP Steven Peyer and Jamilah Nixon bring Italian and South Asian street food together in Sebastopol.

Sebastopol's three-month-old Forchetta/ Bastoni ("Forks/Sticks" in Italian) serves both Italian food (the fork) and South Asian street food (the stick). The dual restaurant concept sounds gimmicky, but the stylishly remodeled dining room, lively cocktail program and menu has won me over, even if the food can be uneven.

The restaurant is a partnership between husband-and-wife team Steven Peyer and Jamilah Nixon, and Patrick Wynhoff. Nixon oversees the Asian side, and Peyer runs the Italian side. Wynhoff serves as general manager for the whole operation.

The Asian side consists of a bar and lounge outfitted with old Thai license plates and other Southeast Asian bric-a-brac. There's also a hideaway lounge upstairs with bright colors, old Thai movie posters and low-slung seating made from shipping pallets.

The Italian side occupies most of the space. Previous occupant Pizzavino 707 had a hard time making the barnish dining room feel intimate, but the new owners have warmed the place with a chandelier fabricated from random bits of kitchen implements and window frames that hang above the open kitchen.

Service on either side of the restaurant is uniformly good. Servers know the menu well and are well synched. The Bastoni menu is small, including banh mi, noodles, pork meat balls, chicken wings, and bowls of curried tofu or chicken.

The banh mi sandwich is the clear star. The ciabatta roll from Sebastopol's Village Bakery is loaded with your choice of tofu ($10), housemade pâté ($12), chicken or meatballs ($12). Pickled vegetables, cilantro and spicy mayonnaise round out this great sandwich. Likewise, the coconut-milk-based curry ($12) is good, as are the meatballs and wings (both $12).

The wet noodles fall short. The noodles themselves are fresh and springy, and the toppings of tofu ($10), shredded chicken or pork meatballs (both $12) are fine, but it's the watery broth that drags the bowl down. It did get better over the course of my visits, and hopefully will continue to improve.

The Italian side has a deeper menu and is the better bet. The thin crust, wood-fired pizzas are superb, blistered and chewy and soft in all the right places. I loved the "soul greens" ($9), a changing lineup of sautéed veggies. On my visits, it was ruffled Brussels sprouts sautéed with garlic, bacon and red pepper flakes. The antipasto plate ($18) is a winner, too. Mine included a housemade salumi, local cheeses, roasted winter vegetables and fat olives.

Risotto seldom does much for me, but here, made with wild hedgehog mushroom and nettles ($18), it was outstanding, each ingredient shining through to make a delicious whole. The only letdown was the agnolotti, little raviolis stuffed with lamb and goat cheese ($17). The dish came strikingly unadorned, with just a dribble of pan juices.

While the bar serves the whole restaurant, it's geared to the Asian side, making delicious cocktails like Il Pilota—Hendrick's gin, St. Germain liqueur, lime and kaffir lime leaf ($10).

Forchetta/Bastoni is still young and getting its footing, but already it's added some flash and style to Sebastopol's dining scene.

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