As thankful recipients of a gift card for Il Forno Cafe and Trattoria in West Windsor, New Jersey, we made dinner reservations for this highly recommended Italian BYOB one Saturday in February. IL Forno’s traditional cuisine and inviting ambiance is the perfect place to dine with family and friends—or just yourselves.
Chef owner, Jeff Malloy, brings 20 plus years of outstanding culinary expertise, along with accolades from the Zagat-rated restaurant, with his simplistic food that has vibrant fresh flavors that come alive as you dine in the rustic “industrial” barn setting with soaring ceilings.
Thank goodness we made reservations because the place was packed, yet we were seated immediately at a small half-booth table up against one of the brick walls. However, I was starting to get my “knickers in a knot” when, after a good 15 minutes, no one had acknowledged our presence or opened our bottle of wine. Seeing my impatience beginning to blossom, Russ quickly hailed the maître d’ who sent our waitress over within seconds—crisis avoided.
They offered several tempting “specials” on top of their regular options, and lucky for Russ, they’ve expanded their gluten-free choices to include pasta, breads, and pizzas. The menu also lists several vegetarian and lighter-fare selections for those so inclined.
And so inclined I was. For starters I had the Arugula Salad, lightly dressed with lemon olive oil, shaved parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts. My entree was Vegetable Lasagna: a “pasta-less” lasagna made with zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant, with chickpea puree and plum tomato sauce. While it was certainly flavorful, somehow I did miss having ribbons of pasta nestled throughout the dish.
As an appetizer, Russ enjoyed Mussels Puttanesca with olives, capers, anchovies, and a plum tomato sauce. His dish was piled high with about 2 dozen plump, succulent mollusks in a fresh and tasty sauce. Not normally a bread eater, I enjoyed his toasted slice of crusty bread topped with some of the sauce—yummy!
For his dinner, he chose the Rigatoni Bolognese, IL Forno’s famous bolognese sauce—which is not red—on gluten-free pasta. Only complaint here was he wished there had been more of that famous sauce!
We gladly took home doggie bags since neither one of us could finish dinner, and that left no room for dessert, but the offerings included Tiramisu, “Hot-Chocolate” Mousse, Homemade Cannoli, and a Flourless Chocolate Cake. Tempting choices for those of you with a sweet tooth.
About two weeks later I had the opportunity to again dine at Il Forno’s, this time for lunch. Surprisingly, my friend Erica and I were the only two patrons lunching that day! I enjoyed the delicious Tuna Salad, a scoop of tuna salad over a bed of fresh arugula, red onion, capers and lemon olive oil drizzle.
The Chicken IL Forno tempted Erica with its grilled chicken breast, sautéed cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed arugula, lemon and white wine, usually served with a side of pasta. At her request, she asked to have the pasta switched out for broccoli. What Erica wasn’t thrilled about was there was no sun-dried tomatoes as indicated in the description. However the waitress brought her a small dish full upon request.
Unlike me, Erica indulges in dessert, and the Tiramisu got her attention that day. Once delivered, she commented “I hope it tastes as good as it looks.” And after just one bite, she verified that indeed it did!
Lynn’s tuna salad entree.
Chicken Il Forno with a side of broccoli instead of pasta.
The artfully plated, and oh so delicious tiramisu.