- 543 N Main, Rochester, MI, 48307
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- 4-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 4 p.m. -12 a.m. (bar until 2 a.m.) Fri.-Sat., 4-10 p.m. Sun.
Tucked away in the heart of downtown Rochester, abutting Paint Creek, sits the restaurant Fortesa. A large stone courtyard, ivy climbing the outer walls, even a proper spire make for a grand first impression. Inside, glossy woods and red velvet create an atmosphere of elegant romance and royal sophistication.
Fortesa faced some roadblocks since opening in 2010 - which normally would spell certain death for most restaurants - but owner Tom Duhani was able to overcome those challenges and emerge as an entirely new (and vastly improved) restaurant, complete with a new staff that includes General Manager Zoran Smolcic (who has led the teams of SaltWater, Quattro and Mosaic), Executive Chef Allen Fisher (former Sous Chef of Opus One) and Certified Pastry Chef Tiffani Tincher; et voila, a brand-new Fortesa.
The cuisine at Fortesa is best described as fusion between the styles of Italy, and the dishes and tastes of the Mediterranean. A full section of their menu is dedicated specifically to specialty pastas (keeping with the Italian flare). But they also have a section of meat-centric dishes that show more of an American influence on tasty Mediterranean cuisine.
To start, select one of their unique appetizers, like the Shrimp Diablo, made with Spanish chorizo (deglazed with sherry), roasted red pepper and tomatillo. The chorizo takes on a sweet and creamy flavor from the sherry with almost no spicy heat remaining, becoming a major contender for star of this dish over the shrimp itself. The Mussels Pastis is prepared classically, with garlic and white wine, and Pernod, a licorice and anise flavored liqueur. Perhaps opt for the calamari (prepared flash-fried, served with citrus béchamel, capers, and tomatoes), or try the trio of bruschetta (cannelloni bean, mushroom, tomato) all which makes for a light, but flavorful, accompaniments to your meal.
If you come to Fortesa try one of the meat dishes. The Veal Oscar is tender, juicy and loaded with lump crab meat, asparagus and a sinful béarnaise sauce. There is Veal Saltimbocca, prepared with prosciutto di Parma (the most ubiquitous of meats in Italian cuisine), as well spinach, sage and fresh, creamy buffalo mozzarella. In both dishes, the veal is quickly dredged and pan sautéed. Our favorite was the Lamb Osso Buco, a generously-sized fork-tender, slow-braised lamb shank served with sautéed spinach, gremolata, and a lightly saffron-scented risotto. The filet of beef is a buttery-tender classic served with, what else? A veal demi-glace.
The pastas range from the Penne Alla Mama Rosa (made with prosciutto di Parma, mushrooms, peas and fontinella in a meat sauce), to the Pasta Milano (fettuccine noodles served with artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and wild mushrooms in a heavenly garlic cream sauce topped with pine nuts). But the real knockout here is the Potato Asiago Gnocchi, an already rib-sticking dish made even richer with wild mushroom, spinach and truffle oil with a veal demi-glace.
There are some fine options in the seafood category, like the Bouillabaisse, Scallops Romesco, and the Salmon Rustica (with spinach, roasted red peppers and sundried tomato basil polenta). Old Italian-American stand-bys like the Pollo Marsala and Pollo Piccante are also fine options, but if you opt for something with wings we suggest that you try the duck, served with a Cumberland sauce, quinoa and haricot vert.
Fortesa changes their menu seasonally, and offers daily specials and house made soups. Desserts are made fresh and change regularly based on what Chef Tincher creates, such as the flourless chocolate cake with French vanilla ice cream, sangria sauce and an almond tuille (a dessert as rich and decadent as a chocolate truffle).
Happy hour is from 4 to 6 p.m. every day with complementary hors d'oeuvres, during which Fortesa offers a three-course prix fixe option, with a salad, entrée and dessert for only $15 (select items). Fortesa is open for dinner Monday through Thursday 4-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. -12 a.m. (bar until 2 a.m.), and Sunday 4-10 p.m. They also have live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 8 p.m.