April 20, 2007

The Baker

Times are good for folks with new Italian restaurants (Sorrentino, Tavolata, Barolo, La Spiga, Bèato): lively, fiercely independent, stamped with the vibrant personalities of their owners. And then there's the local outpost of Il Fornaio at Pacific Place, a chain that's been around for years, putting its own stamp on regional Italian cuisine with a monthly "culinary festivals."

Wine tasting at Il Fornaio.JPG White wines at Il Fornaio.JPG

The fornaio is Italy's baker, and crusty, fresh-baked bread is indeed one of the restaurant's signatures. (The company started as a bakery school outside Milan 35 years ago.) Wine's important, too, with monthly tastings in the soaring atrium of Pacific Place and house pours cheerfully decanted from mini-carafes in the dining room. Last night it was grechetto, a white from Umbria (called grey riesling in California) that made a sprightly aperitivofor a "regional sampler" media dinner.

Primi piatti featured potato gnocchi in a lamb ragù (from the Veneto) alongside ravioli filled with grilled pears and mozzarella (Tuscany). Secondi were halibut baked with pine nuts, olives and raisins (Sicily) and the star of the dinner, braised rabbit over polenta (Trentino). By this time we were on to the Marco Feluga Molamatta (Friuli) and Banfi's reserve Chianti.

Fornaio pasta.jpg.JPG Halibut rabbit.jpg.JPG

The kitchen is run by chef-partner Franz Junga, who also teaches classes. Next class: the Veneto, May 12th; next regional Festa: Puglia, May 7-20.

Il Fornaio, 600 Pine St., Seattle 206-264-0994 Il Fornaio on Urbanspoon

Posted by Ronald Holden at April 20, 2007 7:22 AM

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