For Christmas, my brother very kindly gave Chris and I a gift certificate to Il Forno, a newer Italian restaurant in the Ballston area of Arlington. Il Forno means “the oven” in Italian, and the place boasts a pizza oven (and many ingredients!) imported from Italy. Italian food always brings us back to our honeymoon, so we were particularly excited to spend a date night trying this place out the other week!
Other than sharing a building with Virginia Tech, Il Forno has very humdrum neighbors. Ballston is on the rise when it comes to restaurants (e.g. Kapnos Taverna opens today and Water & Wall recently made The Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants), but Il Forno’s strip on N Glebe Road is not particularly exciting right now.
Even still, memories of Italy quickly came back to us as we approached the restaurant to find the manager leisurely pacing outside and smoking while on the phone. He hung up right away and ushered us in, letting us take our pick of seats in the dining area. We then saw him head over to the bar to watch intently as a soccer game unfolded on the television screen. A few colleagues or friends stood and joined him as well, equally focused on the action.
As we settled in to our seats, I took out a special bottle of Chianti that we had brought for the meal. We’d noticed the corkage fee prominently displayed on Il Forno’s website earlier that day, and thought it would be a great occasion to open a delicious wine that we’d tried at Screwtop recently.
We ordered the burrata to start and were given complimentary salami bruschetta before the appetizer even arrived! Our server was attentive–maybe overly so–and returned often to refill our water and wine glasses.
At the end of the night when the check came, we noticed that we hadn’t been charged a corkage fee! We spoke with the manager about it, who shared that they didn’t really allow customers to bring in wine, so they had decided to just let it slide this time. We pointed out a few times that we had seen the corkage fee on their website, but the manager brushed it off saying that we shouldn’t worry about it — it was okay this time. I found myself quite confused, but we laughed it off to ourselves, remembering the moments in Italy when we as tourists didn’t quite understand what was going on.
I’d love to return back to Il Forno at some point, maybe for happy hour. On Yelp, I’ve read that there is often confusion over when happy hour actually starts… but maybe that’s just another example of the difference in cultures. Plans and processes may seem a little more unstructured, but the result is usually worth letting go a bit and figuring it all out along the way! In summary, Il Forno is the real deal with great Italian food made with authentic ingredients. I was excited that we were able to check it out!