Monday, December 21, 2009

Al Forno - Providence, RI

Dirty Steak, Anyone?

Two weeks ago was my wife's birthday. We’ve grown into a tradition of celebrating what we’ve termed the “Birthday Week” or “Weekend” at bare minimum. So in order to keep up the legacy, I planned a full 4 days of activities starting with an amazing birthday dinner at Al Forno in Providence. If you’ve ever been so lucky to eat there then you know what an absolute treasure it is. How lucky are we to have one of the best restaurants in the country in our own backyard? That’s not just my opinion - but the opinions of many of the country's best chefs and foodies alike.

When I got the idea to go there, I did what any responsible person would do... I tried getting a reservation. Don’t waste your time -they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more. We went right after work - problem solved. Parking isn’t a major issue because the restaurant has their own lot and there is plenty of on street parking in the surrounding area. The building that houses the restaurant is a large brick structure with huge floor to ceiling mill windows that overlook the Providence River. On this particular night (...)
the view was quite spectacular as we approached.

It was a crisp New England winter night. As we made our way, we were greeted by a long archway covered in white lights. I’m sure it's even more magnificent in the summer when the vines are full of leaves and the flowers are in bloom. When we entered, it wasn’t entirely clear where we needed to go, given the narrow hallway’s unmarked path, but being the brainiacs that we are we figured it out - eventually. After a short wait our host returned with a smile. I had mentioned that it was my wife’s birthday and asked for a private table and found our host very accommodating. Our server was very friendly and exceptionally well versed on the menu; he was a pleasant surprise and helped to make our experience even more special.

Prior to doing just about anything, Melissa and I tend to do a fair amount of research and this wasn’t any different. It’s no secret that Al Forno is known for their grilled pizza; in fact it’s their trademark dish that was invented by the owners George Germon and Johanne Killeen. What isn’t as known (and in fact isn’t even on the menu) is the Dirty Steak. Having read about the Dirty Steak in reviews I knew going in that this was the dish for me. It’s a Delmonico steak cooked rare to medium rare right on the wood coals paired with the signature Al Forno mashed potatoes drizzled with their famous Hot Fanny Sauce. From the first bite to the last it was a journey of culinary supremacy that left me wanting more. Delicious.

Melissa went with a simple wood roasted cod over shredded Brussels sprouts and fennel with prosciutto. It was full of flavor but it wasn’t exactly what she had expected so admittedly wasn’t her favorite dish. Luckily we started our meal with the famous wood grilled margarita pizza so having that helped to offset the lack of interest in her entree. In preparation for our return, she’s eying one of the many in-house made pasta dishes.

One special note: all of the desserts are made to order, and when you put in your dinner selection they kindly ask for your dessert choice as well. If you don’t take anything else away from what I’ve written please do yourself a favor and order dessert even if you’re so full the mere thought of eating another bite will make you sick, you need to have dessert. I enjoyed lavender and honey Panna Cotta with bee pollen flecks, it was even better than it sounds. Although my dessert was amazing, Melissa had a special dessert called Castagnaccio. It is by far the most incredible dessert I’ve ever tasted. It’s a sweet and savory chestnut cake with and house made rosemary creme friache. The pastry chef should be commended for these creative masterpieces.

The final touch to a wonderful dining experience came when our server and host brought our dessert out. The host had remembered that I mentioned it was Melissa’s birthday... so when her dessert came to the table, it had a candle in it and they wished her a happy birthday. This is what quality service is folks; attention to detail.

Being dubbed the best restaurant in the country is a lofty title and prior to eating at Al Forno I thought it was just something that was said because people like to label things - but given our experience combined with the incredible quality of the food and service, I’m a true believer.

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Bob Black
Williams & Stuart Real Estate
870 Oaklawn Ave
Cranston, RI, 02920
Work: 401.942.0200 ext 28
Mobile: 401.261.1599

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1 comment:

Trish said...

I remember eating at Alforno's for the first time... how magical it was! The grilled pizza shattered in my mouth, the pre-ordered rustic apple tart and vanilla ice cream was a revelation. Glad you had a good birthday dinner there and wrote about it!