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Chef Spotlight: Michael Ayoub of FORNINO in Greenpoint

Chef Michael Ayoub of FORNINO

Chef Spotlight: Michael Ayoub of FORNINO in Greenpoint

Fornino, the popular Italian eatery by Chef and Owner Michael Ayoub, is located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The restaurant also has a seasonal spot at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park where guests can take in summer sunsets from their rooftop while enjoying Chef Ayoub's wood-fired pizzas, salads and sandwiches and alcoholic beverages. had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Michael Ayoub about his career and Fornino.

What was your earliest interest in cooking?

I remember at a very young age I would make cookies with my Aunt Rosie. We have pictures of me at about two years old clinging onto the table as she was making cookies.

Who were some of your career mentors?

I have been fortunate to have two world-class mentors. Claude Bailes, who in 1975 was the most celebrated chef in New York City. My other mentor is a chef by the name of Alan Petite. He was the Saucier of the restaurant Le Pavillon in New York City. His father was the saucier for Escoffier.

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

I was originally trained classically in French cuisine. My first restaurant, Skaffles, I purchased in 1977 when I was 20 years old, which I ran until 1985. After that, I won a city bid to become the caterer for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. In 1989 I opened up an Italian restaurant called Cucina, it was rated one of the top five Italian restaurants in the city and I was the first restaurant in Brooklyn to be reviewed by the New York Times. From there I went on to my passion project which is pizza and I founded Fornino in 2004.

Chef Spotlight: Michael Ayoub of FORNINO in Greenpoint

What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?

What makes me unique is my age and training. I've been trained by some of the best in the world and 45 years of experience as an owner and a chef for 50. You can never know everything, i.e. all the techniques, ingredients. I'm always growing which I find fascinating. I've taken many online courses during the pandemic. There's always something to learn. As we speak I'm doing cookie boxes, which is one of my favorite things. The more you learn the more you realize you know nothing.

What is your favorite meal or meals?

Well, obviously I love pizza, all the styles. Baked, grilled, New York-style, Italian style, my style, and more. The dough is an excellent palate and allows you to be creative. I like my wife's chicken cutlets too.

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.

Fornino started this artisanal pizza craze in NYC and now we have a lot of imitators, which is flattering. I'm in the kitchen 4-5 five days a week improving recipes. The fire is the most primitive of all cooking, and having that hot heat is really something special. There's nothing comparable. Just give me a couple of logs on the fire and it'll produce delicious food. I also have a wood oven in my home slightly smaller than the one in the restaurant.

Fornino is located at 849 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn NY 11222. The seasonal location at Brooklyn Bridge Park is open from March to October at Pier 6. Current Greenpoint hours are Tuesday to Friday from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Closed Monday. For more information, visit or call 718.389.5300.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Ayoub and Fornino

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