Evening meal review
Originally, we didn’t go to Al Forno’s with the intent of writing a review, so apologies in advance for the poor photography. Ad hoc photography doesn’t yield the best results! Our most recent trip to Al Forno’s was very last minute. We were in the area and looking for something relaxed, comfortable and close by the concert venue. There was Al Forno’s right next door. And such was our experience, I just had to do a quick write up.
I’ll start by saying I’m far from an Italian food expert. It’s not something I eat all too often. Longtime readers will know I’m a cheese-hater and thus, have found it hard to explore a lot of local cheese-heavy Italian cuisine. So the review has to be taken in that context. I’ve had too many arguments over the comparative merits of Rino’s to Lugano to Cucina Toscana and so forth. Can’t we all just get along and enjoy a good meal if it comes along?
For starters, one thing I like about Al Forno’s is the relaxed atmosphere. Wandering in off the dark, cold streets, we were warmly greeted and seated by our waitress for the evening. She was friendly and accommodating, expertly guiding us through the menu with aplomb.
The place wasn’t particularly busy on a Monday evening. A few groups of people were scattered among the restaurant’s booths, while a large table sat down the banquette from us celebrated a birthday meal. When they finished their rendition of happy birthday, random diners from around the room clapped and congratulated. It was a genuinely pleasant and convivial atmosphere. We settled in and ordered some wine.
We decided on sharing a bottle of Caparzo Sangiovese. Al Forno’s wine list isn’t particularly expansive, but what it lacks in breadth, it makes up for in price. All bottles are priced at a reasonable $26. As we sampled our wine, a basket of warm baked bread rolls arrived. Which made for a bread-fest, as we had just ordered the Bruschetta ($6.50) too. Our waitress, now brought up to speed on my aversion to cheese, happily suggested she have our bruschetta prepared half with cheese and half without. A simple enough gesture, but that goes a long way with me:
It wasn’t quite the bruschetta I normally come across, coming on one of the thick baked bread rolls. A basic enough start to the meal, but tasty with an enjoyable acidic bite. Thankfully, I had arrived plenty hungry as I tore through most of the bread basket and bruschetta, eagerly awaiting my upcoming pasta. Low-carb diets be damned!
For our entrees Wendi selected the Penne Pomodoro ($12.95) and I went with the Linguine Fradiavolo ($15.55):
The hearty serving of penne pasta was mixed with diced tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese. Wendi suffers from the opposite of a cheese aversion, let’s call it a cheese love. Another of her favorites is sun dried tomatoes. So, needless to say, she was very satisfied with her entree. She described it as simple and tasty.
My Fradiavolo was recommended by our waitress, as a garlicy-spicy sauce, but I didn’t detect any overt spice at all. Spice levels not withstanding, the dish was just what I wanted. Just-right cooked prawns nestled on top of a a rich herby/garlicy sauce, with a heaping of agreeably cooked pasta beneath. As I finished, I looked back at the impressive splatterings of sauce around the table (wisely topped with paper) I had managed to make, it would appear I devoured the dish with some gusto. In other words, the thumbs up from me.
With a little restraint we both managed not to lick either of our plates clean, to leave room for a slice of Chocolate Cake ($5.50):
It wasn’t the greatest dessert in the world truth be told. In fact, during previous meals at Al Forno’s dessert has often been lacking. A shame really, it’d be nice to cap off such a diet-unfriendly meal with one last sumptuous treat.
Al Forno’s isn’t complex, it wears it’s ambition quite clearly on its sleeves. Al Forno’s doesn’t feature wine flights, nor does it feature exotic dishes at exorbitant prices, and you don’t need to dress up to the nines to eat there. Al Forno’s is an unpretentious, relaxed neighbourhood eatery, with a menu full of hearty rich meals.
Its priced right for me too. A basket of bread, an appetizer, two FILLING entrees, a bottle of wine and a dessert for $70 is a decent value, especially for a long-lingering meal. We weren’t rushed out the door, and if we hadn’t another prior engagement, we might have loitered a little longer. We will be back, just as soon as our carb levels need replenishing again.
Al Forno’s Ristorante
239 South 500 East, Salt Lake City, Utah. 84102
Monday to Friday 11:30am – 10:00pm
Saturday 5:30pm – 10:30pm
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.