Authentic Italian Wine & Pizza Create a Delicious Harmony at Il Forno
**Full Disclosure: I received dinner in exchange for my review, but not to worry, all opinions are 100% mine.
In Italy, if ordering a pizza at a local pizzeria, typically it is paired with Italian wine. Pizza & wine just naturally go together in Italy. So as the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans”. Well, when in Il Ferno (Italian for “the oven”), do as the Italians. Excellent Italian wine along with great pizza with fresh, house-made & local ingredients is the Italian custom.
Don’t expect white clothed tables and crystal glasses here. This eatery is unpretentious. Probably the first thing you notice when you walk inside is the wood-fired brick oven. The oven wasn’t imported from Italy but instead built by chef/owner Michael Sohoki. At Il Forno you order at the counter, pick up your order when your name is called and help yourself to eating utensils, napkins and plates at the back of the restaurant. The focus here is on the menu, as well it should be.
Now, when dining at Il Forno, chef de cuisine Jason Garcia wants you to enjoy the authentic Italian experience. In helping you do this, the restaurant carries a well-rounded selection of fine Italian wines. These wines are typical of wines found in some of the best restaurants around the world but the great news is that at Il Forno these wines are priced very reasonably. Chef Garcia wants you to enjoy a quartino (a carafe that holds a quarter liter of wine) or a bottle, without breaking the bank. So, if you like wine, you can try a sample of a couple of wines when you order. I suggest you do this so you can get an idea of the wine quality here. If you usually drink Chardonnay or Merlot, you may be slightly intimidated when looking over the wine menu because you won’t find either of those wines. What you will find instead are wines like Bosco del Merlo Sauvignon Blanc, Castello di Fonterutoli Poggio Badiola or Tolaini Al Passo both a blend of Sangiovese & Merlot grapes, or a fruity Falanghina white with herbal notes. It is time you step out of the wine box and step into this Italian pizzeria.
Get educated on Italian wines with this guide to Italian Wines 2018 on Amazon.
I personally grew to love Sauvignon Blanc wines while living in Europe. The Bosco del Merlo Sauvignon Blanc Turranio wine at this restaurant is a white wine that is fresh with good minerality. It has a fruity scent, and a refreshing taste with a great complexity. This is an elegant wine that pairs well with pasta, vegetables, cheese & cured meats making it a great choice for pizza.
I am also a fan of the Saugiovese grape. This grape is Italy’s biggest selling grape and is used to make many wines in Italy. It is the principal grape used in Chianti. This grape usually produces wines of higher acidity, medium body and higher tannin. Therefore it makes a great accompaniment to pasta, pizza, and cured & roast meats. The Castello di Fonterutoli Poggio Badiola Toscana is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes grown in the heart of the Chianti Classico region of Italy. This wine is aromatic, supple and elegant. A quartino of wine (which is larger than a typical American glass of wine) at Il Forno is priced between $8 – $11. And a bottle of these quality Italian wines are reasonably priced at just $22 to $40.
Il Forno, known for it’s Neapolitan-style pizza, is already a popular eatery among locals. Of course, what’s not to love about a brick-oven pizza that starts with fresh house-made crust, is topped with meats cured in-house, veggies & herbs picked or bought fresh locally and delicious house-made mozzarella made from local milk. My pizza today had a perfectly charred crust and every slice had a few of all the ingredients giving me the best bite every time. I tried the Margherita, to me the simplest form of pizza, with a rich pomodoro sauce, some of that fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. I also tried the Milano with fresh roasted garlic, chard, Gorgonzola & ricotta cheese, pickled red onions, currents and pecan pieces. A delicious combination of ingredients, I must say! Chef also brought out a beautiful & hearty serving of antipasto which was sweet, salty and savory. With things like ricotta, roasted garlic, charred carrots, pears, turnips, house-cured pepperoni, coppa & spicy sausage, fresh pesto, lentils, basil and flatbread for dipping or layering goodies, you can’t beat this dish.
*Please note: ingredients change at Il Forno with the seasons. So what I talk about today may not be on the menu tomorrow. But rest assured that whatever is on the menu is sure to be fresh and delicious!
Of course, to enhance the flavors of my food and bring it all home were the Sauvignon Blanc & Badiola Toscana wines. I found that you don’t have to decide between red or white because all the wines on their menu compliment Il Forno’s food. So what you go with is more a personal preference. I change my wine preference with the seasons. Light and refreshing white for summer, hearty, bold and complex for winter and between seasons, anything goes. When in doubt, do sparkling as it is good with anything at any time of year!
Location: 122 Nogalitos St., near South Flores
Phone: (210) 616-2198
Tuesday – Thursday: 11am-9:30pm
Closed: Sunday and Monday