Hospitality runs deep in the veins of Marco Zannoni, one of the partners of Garage Buona Forchetta, who started working in his hometown of Rimini, Italy as a bartender at the age of 14. Near the beach, his town was filled with tourists and exuded a hospitable culture, comparable to Coronado.
With its nostalgic garage décor, it’s hard not to love the now successful Garage Buona Forchetta restaurant, which had an auspicious start, opening its doors just a week before the pandemic shut down the world. Quickly pivoting, their strategy was not to focus on making money, but to embrace the community, helping people get quality food at a reasonable cost. Their pizza and pasta family meals were a hit! Zannoni points out that one upside of the pandemic was being able to create the outdoor patio, which wasn’t part of the original plan, but is now always bustling with guests.
Zannoni had worked in his family’s pizzeria and seafood restaurant, where he learned all aspects of the business. His grandmother was an excellent cook with a specialty of making fresh pasta, and his brother is a chef. Twenty years ago, fluent in Italian and French, he wanted to master English, so a friend recommended he come to San Diego. Although he had a tough time understanding at first, he was determined to succeed, so he took English lessons and worked in an Italian restaurant. But when his visa expired he had to return to Italy, where he soon realized that there were more opportunities for him in the U.S. He made his way back to America and continued studying English and also Business Administration. He became the manager at an Italian restaurant, and several other management and consulting jobs followed. Then he met Matteo Cattaneo, who had opened his first Buona Forchetta location in San Diego’s South Park in 2011 and now has six locations throughout the county. Zannoni worked as the manager at Officine Buona Forchetta in Liberty Station for several years, and then became a partner with Cattaneo on the Coronado location.
“Ciao Bella! When you step through the door, you are my guest,” is Zannoni’s philosophy, which is the vision he imparts to all of his 40-50 employees, many of whom are Italian and have been there since the opening. He strives to create a positive environment for both staff and guests. “Matteo and I are big kids, and we love to make the restaurants festive for the holidays.” Each Halloween and Christmas, the restaurant is decked out in holiday décor.
Always smiling, Zannoni has discovered that guests come for the pizza and pasta and stay for the welcoming vibe. Their most popular dish is the Margherita pizza, with the Bruno pizza a close second. The Bolognese sauce is the most requested, and it’s important to note that all of their pasta, sauces, and food is homemade. And let’s not forget their decadent chocolate mousse, tiramisu, panna cotta, cannoli, and more after-meal sweets. Some of our favorites include the gluten free focaccia, the penne Bolognese, the pesto gnocchi, cacio e pepe bucatini, and the sottoterra salad, and our vegan friends rave about the Guido pizza.
You can’t go wrong with anything on the extensive menu, including flavorful gluten free and vegan options. For lunch and dinner, they usually offer the minestrone soup, which is chock full of vegetables and potatoes in a savory broth, as well as fish, meat, pasta, pizza, and other specials. Weekend brunch options include ricotta corn cakes, benedicts, gourmet toasts, burritos, paninis, and frittatas.
The restaurant also boasts a market, filled with Italian products like pastas, sauces, wines, cookies, and more, which compliments the experience. There’s a red Fiat in the middle of the restaurant which has been converted into a cozy table for two. And at the counter you can get coffee, baked goods, prepared foods, meats, cheeses and an array of delicious take out options.
Zannoni met his wife Mona at an Italian concert at the House of Blues, and they have two children. In what little spare time he has, he enjoys fishing, beach volleyball, surfing, and reading fantasy fiction to relax. He travels yearly to Italy and enjoys when his family comes here to visit. His favorite dish to prepare is pizza, which he details is not easy, but fun, especially with their wood-fired pizza oven from Naples, which he named Eva, after his daughter. All of the Buona Forchetta pizza ovens are named after family.
On a recent morning, we got to experience making their Neapolitano-style pizza, which starts with hydrated dough shaped into round mounds to produce the perfect fluffy, slightly charred pizza. “Our pizza is best eaten right away,” emphasizes Zannoni. On a busy day, their kitchen can create 400 pizzas from the 900 degree oven, which cooks pizzas in about one minute.
“I love the Coronado community,” he comments; and shares that they offer happy hour specials for locals, although not in the crowded summer months. There is live music on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons, and the restaurant also hosts parties, wedding receptions, etc. and caters other events.
Anyone who has been to Garage Buona Forchetta can attest to Zannoni’s friendliness, as he walks around greeting guests and pitching in when needed in the kitchen. The word has gotten out and the restaurant is always packed, so it’s best to make reservations if you can, otherwise, they will try to squeeze you in. Located at 1000 C Avenue at the corner of 10th and C in Coronado, Zannoni and the staff will make you feel welcome, as they serve up their authentic Italian fare.
Garage Buona Forchetta
1000 C Avenue, Coronado