Hello and welcome back, everyone!
So last night we celebrated CEBM‘s impending foray into her fourth decade with a besties birthday dinner at Il Fornaio at Reston Town Center (RTC). Generally, I try not to do reviews of places that are chains (but not in a Chili’s/Applebees kind of way), but I am going to overlook that rule today because (1) I actually have pictures to share and (2) we need to talk about their Happy Hour (even though it feels like I’m telling this big secret that I really shouldn’t share).
So, Hands, BS, CEBM, and I got to the restaurant just as HH was ending…or so we were told. Luckily for us, the 6:30 end time was a sham. The buffet table of delicious appetizers remained out and replenished until we sat down at our table some time around 7:00. Now, if for nothing else, you must go to Il Fornaio for the HH snacks. Fried calamari? Check. Margherita pizza? Check. Mini meatballs? Check. Cheese and fruit platter? Check. All for the low cost of $0. Yes, you heard me. $0.
The drink specials were not really advertised. I find that most places have table tents or the like with the various HH offerings. Here at Il Fornaio, you have to ask the bartender. As I did not have wine (I focus on food, people), I am not 100% certain what the specials were…but I am pretty sure there were four types of wine from which to choose and they were $5 a glass. There was also one for $2.50 that started with a P. That’s all I’ve got.
Now, on to the real food. By this time, LKB has joined us and our fivesome is complete. Most of us, except for BS, who orders the Caesar salad (and, yes, it does, in fact, come in a side salad size. And, even if it did not, customer service kind of requires that you accomodate the request…because you obviously have (a) smaller plates and (b) all the ingredients) decide to try the soup du jour–Butternut Squash. While ’tis not the season for such a rich, orange delicacy, the squash was a prominent feature on the menu. Those of us who partook (is that a word??) in the soup were not disappointed…it was very thick and creamy. The shavings of fresh parmesan on top were plentiful and melded well with the rich flavors of the soup. For me, while the soup was tasty, it was also a bit bland. I used a good amount of [clumpy, clumpy] salt to enhance the taste. One thing I noticed, perhaps because I am not a fan, was the hint of rosemary. I did not think a soup such as this was an appropriate place to showcase this most vile herb, but it was subtle enough that it wasn’t overpowering. Of course, if you have an aversion to it, you’re going to taste it more than others (my “others” didn’t taste it at all).
Our entree choices weren’t really all that diverse, either. Three of the five of us ordered the risotto special…it came with crab meat, shrimp, and asparagus. And some sauce that made it yellow. (Note: I now realize that I should’ve been aware (because I’m not that dumb) that the yellow was saffron. I also know it is the most expensive spice on Earth. Thanks for sharing yours with us, Il Fornaio). The risotto was cooked to the right consistency and wasn’t sticky, mushy, or overly al dente. Very few leftovers made their way home.
Our two “different” entrees were the butternut squash ravioli and the tagliatelle with bolognese sauce. The ravioli came accompanied with a sweet marinara sauce and crispy sprigs of sage. Upon placing it on the table, the waiter made sure to tell LKB that the sage was not for decorating purposes, as would be parsley, but was rather an edible garnish. He told her to take a bite of ravioli with a slurp of sauce and a piece of the sage in order to get an ultimate taste explosion. Not sure how I feel about being told how to eat my meal, but it was nice to have a waiter who knew–or gave the impression of knowing–what he was talking about.
My tagliatelle was tasty. The ratio of sauce to pasta was perfect, something that is difficult when both the sauce and the pasta are of such distinct textures and are both quite heavy. With a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan, this was a delicious and unregretful choice. Again, though, the selection, at least for my taste, needed a little help from my salt shaker.
The waiter, knowing it was CEBM’s birthday (kind of) was kind enough to bring out a special dessert for her. I present to you, the birthday tiramisu:
Or what was left of it.