“Save room for the tiramisu,” my friend says when I tell her we are heading to Il Forno that evening.
It’s a Wednesday night in the quiet bayside ’burbs, but this popular little Italian local is bustling. Almost every table is full and the happy hum of dinner conversations fills the air when we arrive.
Il Forno means “oven” in Italian and the mouth-watering doughy aroma of pizza draws us into the restaurant as soon as we open the door.
The friendly staff usher us through the cosy dining room with walls covered in black-and-white family photographs, snapshots of an Italian childhood and promise of a family-friendly affair.
The traditional southern Italian menu reveals an inviting choice of pizzas, pastas, and entrees, such as cauliflower fritters topped with gorgonzola and poached veal and chicken meatballs served with polenta and gremolata.
The pizzas follow the Italian tradition of simplicity and quality when it comes to toppings and the bases are made from house-milled organic wheat.
We choose a prosciutto pizza ($19/$24) to share, which is topped with marscapone, prosciutto, rocket and parmigiana on a tomato base. My pick of the menu is the Moreton Bay bug pasta (Maccaruna Calabrese, $32).
Chunks of tender bug meat are tossed through ribbons of housemade pasta with artichokes, semi-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, chilli and garlic. The Filea Calabrese ($27.50) is also popular with diners — traditional Calabrian pasta served with a rich pork ragu.
The helpful wait staff are on hand to offer freshly shaved parmesan or pepper from a comically enormous metre-long pepper grinder named “Stanley”. We wash it all down with glasses of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the wellbalanced Aussie/Italian wine list.
With bursting bellies, we turn to the dessert list. There are six desserts to choose from, including a chocolate and hazelnut tart ($14.50) and a vanilla panna cotta with a hint of licorice ($12.50), but, remembering my friend’s suggestion, we opt for the tiramisu ($14.50). Creamy and indulgent with layers of espresso- and amaretto-soaked sponge and topped with crunchy candied pistachios, we agree that this is the best tiramisu we’ve ever had.”
- Isa Judson