For Nina Manchev, celebrating 10 years of her successful restaurant is only the beginning.
“I didn’t think the combination of food would be strange [for Americans],” says Nina Manchev, owner of Forte European Tapas Bar and Bistro, of the origin of her restaurant that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this August.
“In [my home country] Bulgaria, you have restaurants that serve sushi and Bulgarian food and Italian, a mix of different cuisines. No one blinks an eye.” After two appearances on Guy Fieri’s TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, people started coming around to the concept. Manchev says, “People decided, ‘We actually like this European home cooking sort of vibe.’” As Forte steadied itself and dishes like kachapurri, a Georgian baked cheese bread with an egg mixed in table-side, became foodie social media favorites, Manchev’s business interests expanded. She is now the proprietor behind Epicurean Atelier, a company that produces, procures and ships specialty meats like Berkshire truffle salami and caviar. The caviar is imported straight from Bulgaria, and the company now supplies to acclaimed restaurants such as Robuchon, ONE65 in San Francisco and Hotel Coronado in San Diego. The fish eggs are sustainably farmed, and Manchev aims to bring the luxury product to the masses. “We’re going to bridge it. It’s a high-end item that’s accessible to other walks of life,” Manchev says. “From farm to table, it’s 10 days. It’s the freshest product you can find on the market.”
Photography by Tyler Gallo/AND Studios