|Forno Osteria & Bar|
Cincinnati needs another mid-range plus priced Italian restaurant like Columbus needs another restaurant chain. Cristian Pietoso is also the chef owner of Via Vite on Fountain Square, which is one of our favorite places for either casual or nicer meals. His father owns Nicola’s and that’s still one of the loveliest restaurants in the region. Forno Osteria & Bar is in ‘Hyde Park East’, which I think is really south Oakley, on Erie Avenue. It’s a risky location because although many restaurants have made this a glossy district, few of them have survived more than a couple of years. The exceptions have been Bangkok Bistro and Sake Bomb. I still miss the unassuming and charming Pasta al Dente, but that’s another story entirely. Like Forno, it also made its own pastas.
|Interior Dining and Bar|
Kris, Karn, and Helen were visiting and Karn wanted to check out one of the most talked about restaurants right now. We decided on Forno because we hadn’t been there. The indoors/outdoors element of the space will be very popular in the summer, but I thought the dark wood felt like an Italian monster sized version of Lincoln Logs. The tables are close together; I was able to hear everyone’s order and the servers’ recommendations at the three tables around us. The entrance was awkward because the manager was on the phone as we were leaving and we had to squeeze past.
The food, on the other hand, was mostly very good. Karn, Kris, and Neil had the Fresh Artichoke soup with Parmigiano Reggiano and crostini. It’s puréed, but with a little texture and has a lovely, golden color. The taste has a real brightness about it, but I wouldn’t have guessed it was artichoke if I hadn’t known. Helen had the Margherita pizza with the mozzarella, but without the leaf basil. We finished it off the next day and I liked it, but I didn’t think it was anything special; it’s not better than Dewey’s.
|Roasted Atlantic Cod|
Kris chose the Roasted Atlantic Cod with arugula pesto and soffritto. The cod was a little drier than I expected with a slight fishiness, but the pesto and soffritto were both excellent.
Karn went with the Tortelloni Gorgonzola—a rich and full-bodied dish covered with veal Parmigiano glace, mushroom and thyme. Neil was attracted to the Gnocchi with Leek Parmigiano fondue and speck (a form of bacon). This was a charming dish; the potato pasta was light and the sauce had senses of citrus and smoke about it.
|Gnocchi with Leek Parmigiano|
|Braised Honeycomb Tripe|
I ordered the Braised Honeycomb Tripe because it’s a specialty and I haven’t seen it on other menus. It had a texture somewhere between octopus and mushrooms and was covered in a red wine tomato sauce. It was rich enough to be a small entrée on its own. I would certainly order it again, but probably consider soup or a salad with it instead.
|Whole Wheat Pappardelle Cinghiale|
I went on to the Whole Wheat Pappardelle Cinghiale with beer braised wild boar ragout, which was basically like pulled beef with a tomato Bolognese sauce. Pietoso always generates a full, rounded base to his red sauces with a complexity of notes in the spices and the alcohol.
People that would want to visit should do so sooner than later because turnover in this part of the city is quicker than one might assume.