Before Il Fornaio held its grand opening for its new Santa Clara location on Nov. 1, the popular Italian restaurant hosted a number of complimentary preview dinners for community members. The food is superb. For example, the antipasti offerings (before the meal) include warm and comforting vegan minestrone soup and crispy bruschetta, fragrant with olives and basil.
“We are introducing Il Fornaio to the community,” says Michael Mindel, Il Fornaio’s senior vice president of marketing. “The way we do that is we work with various community organizations and non-profits and we encourage them to invite their membership to sample the food and service here. We did a lunch with the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce. We also did an event for the Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation. On Tuesday, we [had] our ribbon cutting with Mayor Lisa Gillmor. This is our 23rd Il Fornaio restaurant.”
Il Fornaio’s Santa Clara location is located at 2752 Augustine Dr. (off Bowers Ave./Scott Blvd.) inside the new Santa Clara Square. The 6,500 square foot restaurant, which can hold 180 people, comes with a bar, overhead television screens, an enclosed patio area, an open kitchen and a stunning wine wall.
“It’s a temperature controlled wine wall and it holds 100 cases of wine, so that’s 1,200 bottles,” says Matthew Galli, the restaurant’s general manager. “We have wines from all over the world.”
Galli adds that “il fornaio” means “the baker” and “il forno” means “the oven.” He points out that some employees wear pins featuring a baker man and the colors of the pin reflect the employee’s years of service to Il Fornaio.
For the restaurant’s secondi (second) course, diners have plenty of options. The tagliatelle bolognese comes with smooth pasta noodles and a meat ragu comprised of hearty ground veal, pork and beef that have been braised for two to three hours. The pollo toscano, a rotisserie chicken, is juicy and tender and scented with sage, rosemary and garlic. (Visible from the main dining room, the kitchen’s vertical rotisserie oven exhibits flames shooting upward.) And of course, there are varieties of pizza, such as pizza margherita and pizza fradiavola, made with flour imported from Italy. Dolci (confectionery and dessert) can include an energizing affogato made with expresso, vanilla gelato and fresh whipped cream or nutty and creamy spumone made with strawberry, chocolate hazelnut and pistachio gelato, cherries, chocolate chips and pistachios.
On Friday, Oct. 28, Il Fornaio paired up with Watermark to host a VIP complimentary preview dinner.
“Watermark is a non-profit organization of women throughout the Bay Area from executives, entrepreneurs, and emerging executives,” says Mary Thorsby, Watermark’s vice president of marketing and events. “Our mission is to increase the number of women in leadership positions and we do that by making great connections for our members and enhancing our leadership skills through programs, workshops, webinars and conferences. Il Fornaio invited Watermark members to come help test out the operations tonight and help Il Fornaio with their run through before their grand opening.”