Al Forno Restaurant was opened in 1980 by Johanne Killeen and George Germon to use New England’s farms and waters to produce renditions of Italian food. Al Forno means “from the oven” and they use wood burning ovens and open flame grills to incorporate that concept into their dishes. It is where the concept of grilled pizza was first used, which is served as an appetizer. It’s a larger place with a dedicated parking lot. Inside there are 2 floors for eating and a bar area that also serves food. Small white cloth covered tables are quickly turned for the constant flow of people. The downstairs room we were in had a wall of windows to the parking lot with the opposite wall’s windows being mirrored. The lighting is lowered and no music was in the background. Service was very friendly but not well coordinated. Restaurants need to learn that if you provide very small tables you can’t bring too many dishes to the table at the same time. Our pizza came out first following the bread bowl and then quickly followed by clams. Food was piled to an uncomfortable mess. I asked the server to slow down a bit and then it was 30 minutes after we finished that before anything else came. It was good food but timing can really make me less fond of a place.
While we looked over the menu we enjoyed a Negroni cocktail. In addition to what’s on the menu there were a number of nightly specials. The Negroni was odd as they used a thick slice of orange rather than a piece of the peel. Bread service was a bowl of house made focaccia and a pitcher of olive oil It was nice with a good texture.
The Margarita Pizza uses a combination of Fontina, Parmigiano Reggiano and Romano cheeses. They all have lower water content that helps prevent soggy pies. The crust is not proofed a long time like most pizza crust and that keeps it thin. The tomatoes are canned San Marzano Italian tomatoes and they like to crush them only to chunky after removing the water. The pie is also topped with fresh basil and parsley and in the end it is topped with raw scallions. The dough is cooked on one side on the grill and then the toppings come on when it is turned over, with the cheese on the bottom so it melts faster. The pizzas are served whole not cut. The end result was interesting with different pieces having more sauce than others and bits having thicker pieces of crust. Overall it was tasty. It was cooked perfectly.
Clams Al Forno are spicy roasted clams with arrabiata, onions, white wine and butter. It was made with 6 local littleneck clams that were delicious. The sauce was just the right amount of spice to not cover-up the lovely clam taste. I could have eaten a lot more of these.
Baked Pasta is made with tomato, cream and five cheeses. The pasta shells got a little crispy on the top when it was baked and I love that contrast when eating a dish like this. Some do double up but mostly they adhered nicely to the sauce. It’s like a tomato mac n’ cheese and very good but a large side dish. Many of the pastas could be ordered in half size but not the baked ones. We wanted to try it so just knew we’d have to leave some. It was really good.
Dirty Steak is a 16 oz. wood grilled ribeye with George’s Hot Fanny Sauce and Al Forno mashed potatoes. The sauce tasted more like it was made with chicken stock but it was great, especially on the meat. Some bits of the beef were dry but mostly it was tender, nicely cooked and flavorful. The potatoes were good but really needed more butter to make them rich enough to match the beef.
Jo’s Candied Pecan and Rhubarb Upside Down Baby Cake is served with creme anglaise and creme fraiche. This was an amazing dessert. The cake added the right amount of sweetness to the tart rhubarb and then the sauce finished it off. It was topped with some toasted pecans that added another level of goodness to it. A perfect size for 2, it ended the meal on a high note.