A sure bet at Il Fornaio

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Il Fornaio in Coronado is one of those “sure-bet” restaurants. You know the view looking out over the water toward the San Diego skyline will be stunning, and the umami-rich, fine Italian fare is always served with a side of contentment.

When I want to unwind with David, we go early to score a seat on the patio and watch the expansive blue water ripple before us. For all of 2014, Il Fornaio is presenting Festa Regionale: each month, a special menu features a different region of Italy, culminating in December, with a “Best of Festa” menu.

The view from our table on the patio at Il Fornaio in Coronado

The staff is usually quiet and professional, but on one of my recent visits, our server was more of a nuisance than an informative aide. It wasn’t that he was rude, far from it. It was that he was obsequious to the point of distracting and, by the main course, downright irritating. On more than one occasion, he appeared to ask how we liked our dishes before we’d had a chance to taste them. I get that he was green — he mentioned starting college and how many “months” he’d been in the industry; I don’t fault him for his inexperience, it’s not like we’re born with our social skills. But I couldn’t help but wonder why someone hadn’t told him it’s off-putting for a server to remain standing awkwardly at the table after the diners have said they’re doing great, thanks. Or to repeat, over and over, just how delighted he is that we’re enjoying ourselves, without giving us a moment to actually enjoy ourselves.

Meatball, mushroom, and polenta dish

That particular early evening (we arrived before 6 to ensure the availability of a choice table), the highlighted region was Puglia, the heel portion of Italy’s stylish boot, known for its olive oil, artichoke, tomato and mushroom-centric cuisine. From the regional menu, we selected an artichoke soufflé with shaved Grana Padano and tomato coulis, a mouth-watering marinara that well-represents all of Il Fornaio’s many tasty sauces.

We also ordered the wild boar meatballs, a savory, earthy dish with mushrooms and creamy polenta. Both appetizers were so lip-smacking, we joked about ordering another of each and calling it a meal.

Veal Scallopine, 10/10 would order again

For our main course, we ordered off the regular menu. I often do pasta here, and decided to try something different and order from the meat part of the menu. I got the Scaloppine, thinly pounded veal sautéed with fresh sliced baby artichokes and lemon. The dish was perfect, save for all that cauliflower (I’m more of a broccoli girl). The meat was tender, and the sauce had just the right amount of lemon to be refreshing and complimentary but not tart or overwhelming.

David’s lamb chops failed to elicit any moans from him

David ordered the lamb chops. He said they weren’t his favorite, he’d have liked more flavor, and he most likely won’t order that again. I didn’t taste the lamb, as I was quite happy with the dish in front of me.

So, though we were stuck with a not-very-helpful, obviously-forcing-his-smiles hoverer, we still had a great meal, as was to be expected. Well, I did. David had great appetizers. And a lovely view. And, of course, an exceptional date.


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