Dinner At Il Forno, Baldock
PUBLISHED: 14:35 16 October 2013 | UPDATED: 14:35 16 October 2013
There are restaurants that are all fuss and fluster and those that just quietly get on with the job. Baldock's Il Forno has been doing the latter for 36 years. Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne reviews
About the restaurant
Il Forno began life as a typical Italian restaurant in Luton in 1977, moving to Baldock in 1991. The owner, Gerardo Tuozzo, is also the chef while wife Davina runs front-of-house. Strong repeat custom and online testimonials speak for themselves.
Atmosphere and decor
As a history fan, I’m all for a ‘charming 16th century listed building’ as the website describes it, and the small bar area, inglenook fireplaces and wooden beams are welcoming. White walls set off the beams, while masses of pictures and ornaments give an air of cosiness.
Everything is cooked to order so there is a wait between courses, duly flagged up in the menu. The welcome is notable for the enthusiasm shown by Davina and our wellbeing is regularly checked by her and the staff.
Not yet available on the website, so you don’t know what’s on offer unless you phone. One reason is the boss likes to focus on the specials board, which customers are promised will always include fresh wild lobster hot or cold, fresh fish and seafood dishes, steak using only aged English or Scottish beef and home-made desserts. The ‘normal’ menu is fine too.
Prominent on the standard menu, the pate della casa and melenzane e funghi parmigiana (£5.50 each) were good choices. The home-made fresh chicken liver and pork pate with garlic, brandy and fresh herbs, served as a scoop rather than slices with crostini and home-made fruit chutney, was smooth and creamy and among the best I have had. The fresh aubergines and mixed mushrooms in tomato and basil sauce with garlic were baked in a roasted pepper with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, piping hot and highly satisfying.
From the specials, wild sea bass (£14.95) and baked fish Mornay (£12.95) were appealing, the bass pan-seared with olive oil and a light sauce of garlic, cherry tomatoes, capers and lemon – light, as Gerardo explained later, ‘otherwise you can’t taste the fish’. The second dish boasted fresh cod, salmon and natural smoked haddock in the sauce for which the Duc du Mornay is justly famous, piping hot again and a tantalising mix of flavour and texture. Potatoes and vegetables were extra at £2.95 per person.
Always tempting, panna cotta with fresh fruit and a hint of Grand Marnier in red berry syrup (£4.95) rounded off a well-rounded meal.
Il Forno has found a niche and sticks to it. Good food properly done and a welcoming and friendly atmosphere worked for me and, clearly, many others.
The cost of this meal for two with two courses each and one dessert was £70.30 including wine, plus tip.
This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
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48 High Street
Baldock SG7 6BJ