Cooking with Alison

Il Fornello Restaurant Review

In Reviews on July 20, 2010 at pm

When Ed and I made plans to have dinner at Il Fornello for the first time, I had no intentions of writing a restaurant review.  But I was So disappointed with the food, that I felt I needed to warn other foodies about this popular Toronto chain.

Restaurant Information:

Il Fornello is a very popular restaurant chain with nine locations in Toronto (and the Greater Toronto Area), Ontario, Canada.  They specialize in Italian food and wood oven pizzas.  Ed and I dined at the Richmond Hill location.  The restaurant decor was very nice.  It was elegant and stylish while maintaining a comfortable, casual atmosphere.

Price:

I found that the prices were reasonable.  The appetizers were surprisingly large and substantial.  The fish was well-sized.  The portion size of the pasta dishes was not impressive, but adequate if you also ordered an appetizer.  I think the pizzas could have been a bit larger.

Food:

Appetizers

We ordered the deep fried calamari and the smoked salmon and chevre plate to start.  The calamari was lightly battered and arrived at our table hot and crispy, but I wouldn’t order it again.  I felt that the rings were sliced too thinly, defeating the purpose of enjoying the chewiness of the calamari.  I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the batter, it was undersalted (even for me!), and I really didn’t enjoy their ranch-like dip.  I would have very much preferred an aioli or marinara sauce.  Also, (and maybe I’m getting really picky now) they only provided one small wedge of lemon for a very large plate of calamari.  That dish really needed at least 2 wedges.

The smoked salmon and chevre plate could have been very successful, but I was frustrated by the poor design of it.  There were three slices of smoked salmon (which was nicely flavoured and not too salty, but served too warm), crumbled goats cheese (pretty standard), capers, arugula, pickled onions (sliced too thickly and not pickled for long enough in my opinion), and three meager wedges of multigrain flatbread (this was served warm but I would have preferred if it was grilled or toasted).  For the most part, the ingredients were nice and I liked the combination.  However, the execution of this dish was not given any thought at all.  A very small bed of arugula was placed down the left hand side of the plate, topped with capers and pickled onions.  The crumbled goats cheese was in a pile at the top end of the plate, and the three, narrow wedges of flatbread were on the bottom end of the plate.  Three individually folded slices of smoked salmon lined the right side of the plate.  At first glance, the presentation was nice, but the dish was clearly flawed once you tried to eat it.  The flatbread was neither sturdy enough nor wide enough to top with any of the other components.  So you basically had to eat the components separately.  There wasn’t enough flatbread or arugula, so the goats cheese and smoked salmon were overpowering.  This combination would have made a wonderful crostini.  But served like this, it was messy, visually unappealing, difficult to eat, and there was nothing that tied the ingredients together.

Main Course

As I mentioned, I had not planned on writing a review of this restaurant.  If I had, I would have ordered a pasta dish so that I could write a more thorough review.  Before seeing the menu, Ed and I had both planned to eat pasta, but there was nothing on the menu that appealed to us.  This rarely happens when pasta is concerned, by the way.  Surprised, we both ordered the wood oven pizzas instead.  The selection of pizza toppings was quite good and several of their pizza options were creative.  Ed ordered the Pollo and I ordered the Prosciutto.  I liked the toppings but I didn’t like their crust.  I like thin crust pizzas and I was very impressed with their technique, because these were the thinnest crusts I have ever seen.  However, the texture was dry and hard (as opposed to a desirable crispy).  I have had many wood oven pizzas before, and the ones at Il Fornello were my least favourite.

Update:  I tried the pizza at Il Fornello in Bayview Village in 2013.  It was the worst wood oven pizza I’ve ever had.  Once again, I do Not recommend this chain.

Dessert

We did not have dessert so I can’t comment on that.  I did notice that none of the tables around us ordered dessert either.  So I can’t help but assume that they are nothing special.

Service:

We had dinner on a Saturday night at around 7:30 pm.  Il Fornello does not take reservations on Friday or Saturday nights so we were surprised to be seated right away.  In our section, the tables were placed uncomfortably close together.  So close, in fact, that my bum accidentally brushed the table next to ours when I tried to get into my seat.  The person sitting there gave me an unfriendly look 😉  Our waiter was personable but he was not attentive and he was absent for most of the night.  However, the staff member that brought us our pizza also refilled our water glasses without us having to ask.  So overall, I think the service was acceptable.

Overall Recommendation:

Over the past few years, I have heard many people speak highly of Il Fornello.  In fact, my sister loves this restaurant.  So I was really looking forward to trying it.  I really liked the restaurant decor, but I was very disappointed with the food.  I haven’t tried their pasta dishes, and perhaps they are excellent.  But in my opinion, the quality is that of a standard restaurant chain.  I personally don’t like restaurant chains, so I will not eat at Il Fornello again.

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  1. Great review Alison! I laughed out loud at the brushing of the bum on the table….that is SOOO true – WHY do they put tables so close together?! Yeah, Il Fornello is sort of a hit and miss place..I think once it becomes a chain, it loses all credibility somehow. Looking forward to reading more of your reviews!

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