Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review: Il Fornaio, San Jose Just OK.

Having heard so many great things about Il Fornaio , I was excited to finally get to this San Jose eatery to experience it for myself.

The venue itself is quite wonderful in the Hotel Sainte Claire. We were sat at a table that looked out to the street; which usually makes dining an interesting combination of food and people watching. Our server was fantastic and looked after us with great care. A basket of assorted fresh breads and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar was presented by one of the server’s assistants. I ordered a Barbera for a nice alternative to the usual Cabernet or Pinot Noir.

Our starter was the Calamari Fritti; it was light and crisp with a tangy marinara for dipping. I did end up with a few pieces of membrane from the squid that I had to spit out. I would have expected that from a lesser chain restaurant but not this type of venue.

We split the Insalata della Casa and I must say I expected it to be a bit larger for nine bucks. Beside the price it was just bland. Hard to figure out why with a Gorgonzola dressing this salad should have screamed tangy, but alas it did not.

The main courses were Cannelloni Al Forno; large pasta tubes filled with rotisserie chicken, spinach, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella, bechamel and tomato sauces and, Cappellacci di Zucca; Ravioli filled with butternut squash and walnuts, tomato sauce, brown butter, parmesan and crispy sage. The cannelloni was under seasoned and lacked any excitement. The filling was just a ground up mix of mush. I found the butternut squash filling in the ravioli to be stringy and also lacked seasoning. The browned butter was more like burned butter and the crispy sage was battered as opposed to the usually crispy light frying of sage in similar dishes.

As if the marginal food was not enough, half way through dinner the sun came blazing in on us in a scorching beam of heat. It was as if there was a giant mischievous boy with a magnifying glass; and we were his ant victims. I wrestled with the blinds but they were either too short or broken to block out the fiery beams of sunlight. We moved to the opposite end of our table in an attempt to escape the rays.

At this point I wanted to leave but my companion felt I should have dessert to keep the review well rounded. So we ordered coffee and the dessert special of the night Canolli and Profiteroles. The coffee was excellent. The dessert was ok. I felt the canolli shell was too hard and the filling was no better than any canolli I had had before. The gelato filling in the profiteroles was more like Dryer’s than gelato with none of the gooey texture you expect from a good gelato. The highlight of the dessert was two little biscuits that seemed like an afterthought on the plate. Those biscuits were awesome with the coffee.

If you are looking for a nice night out with excellent service and you don’t mind paying a bit for it Il Fornaio is a possibility. If it’s great Italian food you are looking for, I would look somewhere else.

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