A Popular Scandinavian Pop-up Is About To Dive Into Brick-And-Mortar Game
Within a year, Fet-Fisk is expected to open in the former Lombardozzi’s Restaurant in Bloomfield.
Nik Forsberg’s first restaurant hasn’t opened yet, but he’s still a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic Region.
He’s hosted more than 45 dinners and 4,500 diners at Fet-Fisk, his traveling pop-up featuring classic European-style cooking with Nordic- and Western PA-inspired twists. The name means “greasy fish” in Swedish.
The culinary events allowed Forsberg to test the waters before diving into a full-time eatery. Scoring tickets to dinner is a real catch.
Fet-Fisk’s ever-changing menus showcase Forsberg’s heritage (his dad is Swedish) and his green thumb (he grows 90% of his veggies on a farm in the city’s Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood). Earlier this week, guests enjoyed dishes such as scallop crudo, venison tartare and Wellfleet oysters.
“It’s like I’m starting a restaurant every other week,” says Forsberg, who launched Fet-Fisk with Sarah LePont in 2019. Even without a brick-and-mortar location, it earned a spot on Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2022 Best New Restaurants list.
Now, with new business partners and fellow chefs Kate Romane of Black Radish Kitchen and 412 Food Rescue’s Greg Austin, Forsberg plans to make a full stop in Bloomfield.
Within the next year or so, Fet-Fisk is expected to occupy the former Lombardozzi’s Restaurant at 4786 Liberty Ave. The Italian institution closed in 2021 after nearly 50 years in business.
The partners hope to raise 10% of the total cost for the project through a community-supported GoFundMe campaign.
Forsberg says although they plan to make cosmetic changes, the Lombardozzi’s building suits Fet-Fisk’s retro vibe and is large enough for the restaurant to offer an event series and become a community hub.
“So much of that aesthetic is in there already,” he says. “The bar is perfect. We want to keep the spirit of the place and create a feeling that has always kind of lived there. Conceptually, the restaurant would be like an old steakhouse or seafood parlor.
Finding such a real estate gem was just one of many surprises Forsberg has encountered on his Fet-Fisk journey, which started as a way to pass the time during a long, cold winter. He thought about visits to his grandmother’s house in Sweden and perused vintage cookbooks to jump-start his creative process.
As temperatures heated up, so did the popularity of the dinner series. Foodies clamored to get tickets and hit local farmers’ markets to stock up on smoked meats and fish, pickles and breads from Fet-Fisk’s prepared foods line, Royal Market. The products are made at a commissary kitchen in Shaler, which is not open to the public.
Forsberg weathered stormy seas during the pandemic, but once COVID restrictions eased up, he picked up right where he left off: hosting pop-ups that sell out in minutes.
Although there are traditional aspects to his offerings, he describes Fit-Fisk fare as what he wants Scandinavian food to be, especially since the cuisine is experiencing a global surge in popularity.
Despite the high demand for Fet-Fisk and the pop-up model’s brand-establishing impact, Forsberg says it’s a challenge to make sustainable profit margins and keep people employed.
In January 2022, Romane and Austin partnered with their friend and colleague to help make his brick-and-mortar dreams a reality. The James Beard nomination — the food industry’s highest honor — gave him an extra confidence boost. Winners will be announced in June.
While they work to get the restaurant ready, Forsberg says the team will continue doing pop-ups and will have a weekly presence at the Bloomfield Saturday Market. Keep tabs on the Fet-Fisk Instagram page for details.
“I’m looking forward to the stability of having a place where everything is,” he says with a laugh. “Having a routine will be really nice.”