Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Il Fornaio

If you're looking for an Italian restaurant with a great view of the San Diego skyline, you can't beat Il Fornaio, located across the bay in Coronado, CA.

This afternoon, my husband and I decided to enjoy an early lunch/late dinner at Il Fornaio since he was craving Italian food, and I always love a restaurant with a view.  We arrived around 4pm, and the restaurant was almost empty.  We were seated at a table by the windows which offered a great view of the bay and the San Diego skyline.  At lunch time probably until about 6pm, you can get a table pretty much anywhere you want, but if you're coming here for dinner, especially on the weekend, I would recommend making a reservation and requesting a table by the windows.  The view is what makes this restaurant worth coming back to.

While we looked over the menu, we were given water and a basket of bread which included Italian bread, a grainy roll with raisins in it and an olive loaf.  The waiter also poured olive oil and vinegar in a plate for dipping.  Personally, I like the taste of balsamic vinegar much more than olive oil, so I would've preferred if the proportions had been opposite.  All I could taste was olive oil.  I don't like olives, so I didn't try the olive loaf.  The grainy rolls were okay, but I think I'd prefer multi-grain bread.  The Italian bread even tasted a little bland, and I'm a girl who loves her bread.  Maybe it would've been better if it were warm?

We looked over our menus and placed our order.  The waiter asked if we wanted a salad, and originally we said no.  After talking it over, we decided to see if we could share a salad.  We didn't really want to eat an entree size salad before our entree, but we figured it wouldn't be too much food if we shared.  My husband tracked down someone who worked there (not our waiter) and requested to add the Insalata di Spinaci to our order.  He also asked if it could be split for us, and it sounded like that was no problem.

While we waited for our food, we enjoyed watching the sailboats and kayaks float down the bay.  I also glanced around the restaurant (took pictures for this blog) and noticed that you can clearly see the kitchen from the restaurant.  That's a nice touch.  I watched the chickens going around on the rotisserie.  I also noticed that they used pasta for decoration.  I love when restaurants use food in their decor.

While we waited (and actually the entire time we were there) the people at the table behind us were talking in a foreign language really loudly.  That was not the restaurant's fault, but it was really annoying.  I kept wishing they'd leave soon.  It was hard to hold a conversation with my husband because they were being so loud.  I've noticed that some restaurants turn their music up a little louder (not head-banging loud) so that it drowns out some of the noise.  A baby could cry or people could laugh loudly, and you'd still hear it, but it'd be muffled and not nearly as annoying as if the music were softer.  Miguel's (our favorite restaurant in Coronado) does this well. 

Our waiter came over with our salad.  He seemed slightly confused, which I suppose is understandable considering we changed our minds and decided to order a salad after telling him that we didn't want one.  We were also slightly confused because the salad wasn't split in half for us as we had requested.  The waiter set the salad in the center of the table and gave us each a small plate for sharing.  I scooped half of the salad onto one plate, and my husband ate the rest from the plate it came on.

The Insalata di Spinaci consisted of organic baby spinach salad with aged ricotta, red onions, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes, champignon mushrooms and toasted walnuts with a warm vinaigrette.  The walnuts were interesting.  I don't know that I would choose to put walnuts in a salad; almonds probably would've tasted better.  The vinaigrette gave the salad an excellent flavor.  I would totally order it again based on the flavor, but it seemed a little overpriced for the size.

Then our entrees came out.  I ordered the Petto di Pollo al Peperoncino which consisted of a grilled free-range chicken breast marinated with sage, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, white wine, Dijon mustard and lemon and served with spicy peperoncino sauce, sautéed organic spinach and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes.  I chose this entree because the description sounded so delicious.  I mean, the marinade alone sounded incredible.  I was expecting some amazingly seasoned food, but I was disappointed.

Watch out for garlic in the spinach!
The presentation of the butterflied chicken breast was nice because it seemed to resemble a heart.  The chicken was tender and well cooked; however, I didn't taste any of those delicious herbs that were supposedly in the marinade.  If it weren't for the spicy peperoncino sauce, I would've needed a lot of salt and pepper to eat that chicken.  The sauce was delicious, but it kinda just reminded me of wing sauce.  

I was impressed with the serving size of the spinach; however, it had no flavor.  I kept dipping it in the peperoncino sauce.  That helped.  The spinach also had slivers of garlic cooked in with it.  That could be scary if you're on a date.  I tried to be careful to pick out the garlic so that I didn't eat it, but I apologized to my husband anyway just in case I ended up with garlic breath.

The potatoes also had no flavor, unless grease is considered a flavor.  I love potatoes, and really, how hard is it to make roasted potatoes delicious?  Not very.  I was disappointed. 

My husband ordered the Cannelloni al Forno which consisted of large fresh pasta tubes filled with free-range rotisserie chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, ricotta, pecorino, smoked mozzarella and organic spinach and topped with béchamel, marinara and mushrooms.  I only had two bites of his entree, but I liked it better than mine.  I had never had cannelloni before, but I totally want to make it now.  It's like the Italian version of enchiladas.  The flavors of everything inside the pasta tubes melded together, and the sun-dried tomatoes gave it all a nice kick.  We used the sauce to had flavor to the bread in the bread basket and my entree's chicken and potatoes.  My husband thought the sauce was a little soupy.  I agree, but it was great for dipping.

We were too full for dessert, but we asked to see a dessert menu.  This is one of those restaurants that brings out a tray of desserts for you to look at instead of a dessert menu.  If I had been hungrier, it could've been fun to try the dessert trio.

In short, the main reason to go to this restaurant is the view.  You want to sit by the windows, so if you're going for dinner, make a reservation to make sure you get a window seat.  Otherwise, you shouldn't have a problem sitting wherever you want.  The food is okay.  Some things are better than others, and everything's over-priced.  If it weren't for the bay view, I wouldn't come back, but we had a perfectly lovely meal.  I'm sure we'll eat here again but not nearly as often as we'll eat at Miguel's.

Happy eating!

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