Restaurant Review: Forno Kitchen + Bar
According to the interwebs, “forno” is an Italian cooking term that can be used to designate food that has been baked or roasted, it means “oven”. At some point in their lives, most people have seen something like Chicken al Forno or Pasta al Forno on a restaurant menu or in a cookbook.
Still, it took a minute to make the linguistic connection for the new Forno Kitchen + Bar joint in the Short North. All by itself, the name looks like it might be a mutation of a naughtier reference to common English language terms. Nope, the restaurant is all seriousness, with loads of clamor and glamour. Lots of windows, movement, and people playing with phones inside its sleek Short North digs. The Forno restaurant project comes from the same team that brought the neighborhood the very popular Pint House.
Forno focuses heavily on its kitchen element, with a developed menu featuring everything from tacos and wood-fired oven pizzas, to roasted chicken and Pasta Forno (no “al”).
As is sometimes the case when dining with a group, personal favorites and table favorites were not completely in harmony.
The table favorite from the appetizer section was the Pork Belly Tacos ($10). Tucked inside fryer-fresh, sharp angled shells was a base of long strands of sweet barbecued pork topped with cilantro and bits of savory pork belly. Big thumbs up from everyone for the crunchy shell and meaty combination contained within. The pork belly accents were on the soft and supple side. While table mates loved the squishy belly, it’s gotta be crisp for this writer.
Meanwhile, the relative lack of dining team enthusiasm for the Mini Salmon Cakes ($10) meant that three out of the four cakes belonged to me. Fools. Just bigger than a silver dollar and rounded, the little salmon cakes provided the perfect blend of crispy-crunchy on the outside, and inside was the smoothness of salmon amped up with capers. Served with tzatsiki sauce, the cakes are as good as salmon gets.
Then there is pizza. At Forno, the pies are generously sized, with a poofy, chewy crust featuring air pockets and a nice char courtesy the house high-heat, natural gas oven. The Chicken Alfredo ($13) is a good pie to try. It features a lavish supply of sliced mushrooms and chicken with alfredo and some mozzarella cheese that fairly fuses itself to the crust. Traditionalists might lean more towards the Pepperoni ($13), which has some grown-up sophistication courtesy the aforementioned artisan crust and fresh mozzarella.
In the more formal entree department The Pasta Forno (with chicken, $18) was okay. Fat, striated tubes of rigatoni were tossed with slices of portobello mushrooms and a very mild, red vodka sauce. The added chicken was of good quality, and a smart choice as the mushrooms and sauce needed a something more to make them interesting. The house pizzas and appetizers outshine the pasta dish by miles and miles.
You can find Forno Kitchen + Bar at 721 N. High Street. It’s open Mondays through Thursdays from 4pm until 12am. On Fridays, it’s open from 4pm until 1am. Saturday hours are 1pm until 1am, and Sunday hours are 4pm until 12am.
For more information, visit www.fornoshortnorth.com.
Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com. Photos are taken at a different time than review, so discrepancies between photos and review may occur.