Photos by Caitlin Abrams
The gorgeous historic art-deco restaurant space that is known as The Forum will once again be given a chance to dazzle eaters.
During its last incarnation in 2010, inexperienced Cargill exec-turned restaurateur Jim Ringo attempted to resurrect the space, though his version lasted less than a year. This go around couldn’t be more different.
Josh Thoma, Kevin Fitzgerald, and Jack Riebel have just signed the lease for the space. The powerhouse team behind Smack Shack and the coming Lexington overhaul have also brought on another partner to the team, Heyday’s Lorin Zinter.
That’s a lot of information to soak in, yeah?
So first, The Forum. The space was left in a pretty turn-key state, with a newly upgraded kitchen and reconstructed bar. When the partners met up with Shorenstein, new owners of City Center, the deal seemed too good to pass up. “It’s an historic space, it should be used,” Thoma said, “It’s too beautiful to go to waste. “ Shorenstein already had successes with Rosa Mexicano and Fogo de Chao, and is very excited to have found this powerhouse team.
But knowing this was a serious marquee project, and that The Lexington was coming up, the team felt like it needed one more person in the mix. Enter Zinter, the front of house wizard of schmooze who recently opened his own restaurant, the widely acclaimed Heyday, with partner Jim Christiansen. Zinter is the fourth member of the partnership that will be known as The Four Sevens. He will run the service/dining room programs at both The Forum and The Lexington, while still maintaining his ownership in Heyday. “I’ll always be a part of Heyday, and I’ll still be the Managing Partner. This was just such a great opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up. Jim was very excited for me, he’s worked with both Jack and Josh before and I couldn’t be more excited.” Yes, you’ll still see him at the door in LynLake from time to time.
So what can we expect?
It should not be lost on anyone that Riebel spent six years in this space when it was Goodfellows. “It’s like a homecoming being here. These chairs are the original chairs we had back then, the kitchen feels like a memory.” He’s brought on Troy Unruh, who worked with him at Goodfellows before heading to New York, to be the Executive Chef of the space. Unruh spent at least three years at Del Posto before coming back to town to restablish roots. That works out well, since the space will be reborn as an Italian restaurant named Il Foro. “We thought about what was missing in downtown and realized there was a need for a great Italian spot,” Riebel said.
ESG, which has worked with the team on Smack Shack, will be working with the space to maintain the historic themes, but give it relevance and functionality. Because it is a protected historical site, they’ll have to work with the Historical Preservation Society before they can even begin the permitting process. So while they can’t put a real date on anything yet, they’re hoping to be open by spring.
So if all goes according to plan, Il Forno will open first, and The Lexington will follow. Update on The Lex: demo has begun, but they have to reconstruct some ceilings and floors making the work happen from the top down. “Sure we could have gone in and opened it up the next day, but we wanted it to be ready for the next 40 years. Much like this space,” Thoma said.
What with all the action with the Mayo site, the new hotels, the big events coming to town, not to mention the continuing clamor for private dining space, the Forum is poised to have its moment, again.