Ash Aziz, owner of the Circa Restaurant Group, celebrated the official opening of his latest restaurant, Il Forno Pizzeria at The Pointe at Barclay, over the weekend.
Aziz said he designed the restaurant to be sophisticated, yet warm and inviting. Eighty percent of the kitchen is visible from the dining room which features a mix of cypress, black metal and white subway tile.
One large wall is lined from floor to ceiling with metal shelves containing jars of brightly colored preserved fruits and vegetables (pictured below). The counters separating the kitchen from the dining room are lined with shelves of products imported from Italy that are used in Il Forno’s recipes.
The menu at Il Forno, which means "the oven" in Italian, centers around an 850- degree, gas and wood fired oven, where nearly all the dishes are prepared. The star of the show is likely to be the Neapolitan pizza with its very thin, crispy crust and a variety of authentic, fresh, Italian toppings.
Aziz partnered with Roberta Campani, who many locals know from her time as owner of La Gemma Bakery, to develop Il Forno’s menu.
“I’ve wanted to open a restaurant focusing on pizza for the past 12 years or so,” Aziz said. “But it was very important to me that it be as authentically Italian as possible.
Aziz credits Campani with teaching him both the art and science of pizza making. Because so many factors, such as humidity levels, yeast fermentation, and temperature, can impact the dough, it can be very challenging to create the very same dough day after day. And so, as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.
Campani and Aziz spent much of the summer making pizzas in the wee hours of the morning in the kitchen at Osteria Cicchetti before the kitchen crew arrived to set up for service. They made and tasted countless pizzas before determining the exact recipe for the dough and selecting 16 pies for the menu, which are divided up between classics, white pizzas and red pizzas.
Il Forno also has four stuffed pizzas on the menu. The stuffed pizzas are somewhat similar to a calzone but rather than being folded, include two full-size crusts stuffed with meats, cheese and vegetables.
All pizzas are 12 inches and range from $12 to $15.
Menu highlights also include a seafood lasagna with homemade pasta, lasagna Bolognese, homemade cannellone pasta stuffed with ricotta, parmesan, spinach and marinara, and gnocchi with ham, wild mushrooms and pecorino romano.
Guests will also find salads and cicchetti, small bites or sides, as well as a selection of fresh-sliced formaggi and salumi, cheese and meats. And of course Campani, who splits her time between her home in Italy and Wilmington, has incorporated some of her most beloved desserts, including a mimosa cake, a strawberry tiramisu and a Nutella pizza.
“Ash is so passionate about this food, and has spared no expense in bringing in the very best ingredients from Italy,” Campani said. “We have taken no short cuts here to provide the finest quality and an authentic Italian experience.”
The wine list is heavily Italian, with each bottle selected for its ability to pair well with most menu items. Aziz describes the list as full of very approachable wines at a great value. The full bar also serves draft and bottled beer and craft cocktails.
Il Forno is located in Suite 201 at 1474 Barclay Pointe Blvd. and is open for lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call-ahead seating is available during peak times, but reservations are accepted for large parties only.
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