• il fornaio: more bellisimo vegan chain options


    If I feel like spending around $70 on dinner for two in a nice restaurant where I can take my time to enjoy good wine and awesome vegan food, the Il Fornaio chain is always a good bet. I’ve been to outlets in San Francisco, Denver, Vegas, NYC, LA and, most recently, Seattle. Each has a slightly different atmosphere, but the same menu, quality and good service. AND, they understand what “vegan” means.

    Capellini al Pomodoro: Angel hair pasta, chopped fresh roma tomatoes, marinara sauce and fresh basil. $12.95

    While my main dish is always the Capellini al Pomodoro, I usually order a bottle of wine, and pig out on the fresh bread and olive oil they serve upon arrival. In fact, this is the BEST fresh bread and olive oil available in any restaurant I’ve ever been to, especially the outlet in Vegas (its bakery is adjacent).

    If you are into crisp white tablecloths, genuine silver plated flatware, huge wine glasses and operetta on the overhead speakers, Il Fornaio is just the ticket. Depending on where you are, the atmosphere resembles a busy cafe (Beverly Hills outlet), a grand old Florence mansion (Vegas) or a chic, moderne hotel lobby (Seattle). This variance makes exploring new locations in different cities quite the experience.

    The Seattle Il Fornaio interior — very hotel lobby-esque.

    I usually don’t eat much basic Italian food when I’m out as I can typically cook something similar at home for a tiny fraction of the price and in a few minutes. Il Fornaio is an exception, though, as they do something very unusual with the sauce on the Capellini al Pomodoro, and the pasta is cooked in such a way that its texture perfectly matches the crunchy tomatoes in the sauce.

    One slight criticism is that the rest of the menu is rather meaty — they have gross meat dishes with bones sticking out of them, so choose your company carefully if you go there with non-vegans/vegetarians otherwise you’ll be forced to look at something like this (be careful if you’re squeamish) while you eat.

    In this close-up you can clearly see the care with which the dish has been prepared in the kitchen.

    Cooking pasta is an art in three phases: heating the water (hot, boiling, salty with some oil), then cooking the pasta with just the right amount of heat, time and the occasional stir. Finally, the pasta has to be removed from the water, drained, prepared and served to your table within about 2 minutes — something that most restaurants, and nearly all home preparations don’t manage to do. Il Fornaio does a great job with this, leading to perfect, steaming pasta every time.

    Here’s the bread basket, the shot was taken about four minutes after it arrived when half the ciabatta and ALL the crustini had already been eaten!

    In the Vegas outlet, you can watch them take the bread out of the oven, and cut it up after it has cooled right in front of your eyes. It tastes truly amazing, try it and you’ll see.

    Here’s the olive oil, about to be scooped up with the ciabatta in the background.

    Finally, the sign outside the restaurant – as taken from inside Pacific Place Mall on Pine St. in downtown Seattle. I was so full when I took this I could hardly walk the few steps ‘home’ to the Hyatt.

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3 responses to “il fornaio: more bellisimo vegan chain options” RSS icon

  • woooow, at last! this is the way we cook pasta here in Italy, so difficult to find a good pasta abroad, my dear…;-)
    It must be cooked not more than the minutes written on the box (better if 1-2 minutes less) and served in two minutes, we don’t like it…pulpy!

    Only one thing…we don’t put oil in the boiling water, only salt

    kisses fron a vegan in Rome

  • My family often goes here (they are not vegan or even vegetarian.) That bread and olive oil looks pretty great by the way.

  • i love Il Fornaio – the one in Burlingame, CA says right on the menu “our minestrone is VEGAN” in big letters. that can’t be beat.

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