San Diego, California – Il Fornaio Restaurant & Bakery

Restaurant: Il Fornaio
Cuisine: Italian
Last visited: October 2, 2010
Location: San Diego, California (Coronado)
Address: 1333 1st St (next to the Coronado Ferry Plaza)
Price Range: $20-30, 30–50USD

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3.5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 5 (6 if you sit on the patio)
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Restaurant and bakery
  • Fabulous outdoor patio
  • Fantastic ocean view
  • Popular homemade desserts
  • Banquets
  • Catering available
  • brunch/lunch/dinner

**Recommendations: Pizza Cristina, Cappellacci di Zucca

Il Fornaio in San Diego, California is located in Coronado which is a very touristy part of town. Although the restaurant is located in a tourist area it’s still popular to locals and a great place for special occasions or group parties. It’s good for two people as well, but it gets quite loud so it’s not exactly intimate and cozy.

There are several locations in the States with 16 of them in California. I didn’t even know that until now, but I’m really not surprised because you get that kind of “Macaroni Grill” feeling the moment you walk in. It’s like the classier and nicer version of Macaroni Grill. It is a very nice place that’s is generally well liked, and I guess it has to be to be so successful. Personally I found it an American take on authentic Italian, but they still do a pretty good job at it. They do have some traditional Italian dishes and they’re famous for their baked goods. It’s an open kitchen and everything is fresh, in house and reasonable priced for the quality, portions, and atmosphere.

The restaurant is large and it’s big enough to host big banquets. The atmosphere is casual fine dining although it looks like it’s fine dining. They do offer various rooms for different atmospheres and styles of dining as well. They have a more casual lounge area in the front and also an exclusive high end dining room for private parties.

The view is excellent and reservations are highly recommended if you want seating on the patio or a great ocean view that overlooks into the city. This is where we sat, but I wasn’t dining with that group. There’s several restaurants located along the boardwalk, but this patio is one of the most popular and sought after locations.

On the table:Complimentary Bread

  • They give you a ton bread and all of them are baked fresh daily. Il Fornaio is famous for their baked breads and they’re delicious!
  • There were 3 varieties of crispy and crusty rustic bread and they’re all served warm. My favorite was the olive roll with a chewy center and the focaccia had a fluffy soft centre.

Calamaretti Fritti – 3.5/6

  • Baby squid, lightly floured and deep fried, served with spicy marinara $12.59USD
  • I know calamari is just calamari, but this came highly recommended and it’s the most popular appetizer. It was in fact very good calamari.
  • It’s very fresh! The batter is very light and not seasoned so it has a light crispiness rather than crunchiness. It almost tastes steamed rather than deep fried and it’s very tender and not chewy at all. It’s for real seafood lovers that don’t like their seafood to be masked by batter.
  • The marinara sauce is almost like a spicy salsa and it’s quite thin. It almost seemed Mexican to me and I can’t say I was a fan of it. It seemed a bit thin and I wanted some fresh tomato puree in there.

Caprese – 4.5/6

  • Vine-ripened sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with basil-infused extra-virgin olive oil $8.99
  • Probably the most traditional Italian salad to order. The Caprese is as good as it gets for what it is. It’s simple, fresh and the ingredients are good quality. I just know they’re capable of more so I wish it was a bit more unique.
  • The olive oil has great flavour and the dressing is a great dip for the bread as well.

**Pizza Cristina – 4/6

  • Fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, shaved Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, mushrooms and wild arugula, drizzled with white truffle oil $15.99
  • This is the most popular pizza. I could smell the truffle as soon as they put the plate down. There was surprisingly a lot!
  • There’s no sauce on this pizza and the mushrooms are sauteed and almost used as the sauce so it’s  a very mushroom-y pizza. They use a combination of button, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms with some garlic and a touch of truffle oil. The creamy semi melted fresh mozzarella adds a mild cheesiness to the mushrooms and it’s excellent!
  • They’re very generous with the ingredients and it had a ton of flavour from the salty slices of prosciutto and thin shavings of Parmigiano cheese too.

  • The pizza crust is thin and it’s baked in what seems like a firewood oven so they are quite popular. The leoparding wasn’t bad, and the crust was thin all around but I couldn’t taste that charcoal flavour. I wish the crust was crispy though because it was soft all round except for the crust.

**Cappellacci di Zucca – 4.5/6

  • Fresh ravioli filled with butternut squash and walnuts; tomato sauce, brown butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and crispy sage $18.59USD
  • I would call this the highlight of the night.
  • The ravioli was very good, except they were overcooked and the skin was a bit too soft.
  • I loved the sweetness of the squash with the nuttiness from the walnuts and tang of tomato sauce. the cheese and putter adds the perfect amount of saltiness. They were pretty well filled but I could have used more walnuts. I love this combination of flavours, but I’ve had better of something similar as well.
  • I wish they didn’t batter the sage leaves and they weren’t crispy either. I wish the brown butter was cooked a bit longer to enhance the nuttiness and I was hoping the sage leaves would be infused into that sauce too.

Cannelloni al Forno – 2.5/6

  • Fresh large pasta tubes filled with rotisserie chicken, sundried tomatoes, ricotta, pecorino, smoked mozzarella and organic spinach; béchamel, marinara and mushrooms $17.99USD
  • I found this to be very mediocre and not memorable. Both sauces were very standard and ordinary, but it was a good way to get the combination of creamy white sauce and tangy red sauce if you can’t decide. I think the red sauce could have been executed much better for what they’re capable of.
  • It was stuffed with a ton of ricotta stuffing and it was a really hearty cannelloni. The pasta tubes were overcooked though so it was a bit mushy overall especially with the creamy stuffing. The mushrooms were great and it petty much tastes exactly what it sounds like so there wasn’t much of a surprise.
  • It was almost like a hearty casserole swimming in sauce rather than a pasta dish.

No, I did not order all the desserts. I wish I did though! They actually bring out all the desserts on a cart so you can see what you’re ordering. They are popular for their homemade Italian desserts and I’m very disappointed in myself because I do something I rarely do… I passed on dessert! I know right!? Whose blog are you reading?! I know, I know, but the thing is I was headed to Extraordinary Desserts right after. However the 30min line up meant going to Babycakes and trying Extraordinary Desserts the next day. I would make the effort to come to Il Fornaio just for the desserts… they looked so good!


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