Il Fornao has been around for awhile and I’ve dined in quite a few of them over the years. So when I saw that they had an Il Fornao in Corte Madera and it was on the way to an event we were attending in Marin, I couldn’t help but think: I wonder what they’re like on the west coast.
The truth is that I haven’t dined at an Il Fornao on the west coast, so when we were invited to dine, how could we say no. After all, I was curious and it was in a quaint Marin town I haven’t spent much time in.
Romantic Dining in Marin at Il Fornao
If you’re one of those foodies who think that heavenly dishes can’t be found at a chain, think again.
The first thing we fell in love with was the restaurant‘s charm. While it’s odd to have an extremely chilly night in Marin, our reservation was booked on a weekend evening that slated to fall down to 33 degrees. While this may not seem cold if you’re a New Yorker, Parisian or Berliner, it’s a brrrr evening for Californians.
They put us at a table by the fireplace (we got lucky) and the result was romantic ambiance from drinks to desserts. If you are planning to visit during one of the colder months, request one of the tables in the back near the fireplace — you won’t regret it.
Although we were tempted to order warmer and filling apps like their Fried Calamari, their delicious looking Bruschetta with basil and kalamata olives or their antipasto, we opted for a healthy salad to start instead.
If you’re a beet lover (we absolutely are), you’ll be thrilled to hear that they’ve got a red and gold beet combo plate (below), which they serve with Wild Arugula, Toasted Walnuts and Asiago cheese. And, it’s all organic, which we care about and look for wherever we dine.
They toss this healthy salad in a lemon-olive oil dressing, although if you do want something a little heartier, they also offer a classic Caesar, a mixed greens or one of my favorites: the Caprese! Think delicious mozzarella and basil drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. We make this at home all the time, and so……That said, it was hard to pass up.
We were eager to also try a more comforting and hot appetizer to accompany the salad however, so out came their house made meatballs which they prepare a little different than most Italian restaurants. And, the presentation is unique too — have a look!
They serve the meatballs on soft polenta prepared two different ways: with truffle accented mushrooms and with tomato sauce and Grana Padano! Whoah — it was so divine!
It’s so hard for me to pass up Carpaccio when it’s on the menu and so I didn’t. Here, they use Certified Piedmontese beef and top it off with Arugula, shaved Grana Padano, capers and lemon-olive oil. It went perfectly with a glass of the 2014 Super Tuscan Lucente — Luce della Vite.
If you wind up going here as a group, I’d suggest the Antipasto Della Casa which includes Prosciutto, Italian salame (so epic), caprese bruschetta, grilled artichokes, zucchini and eggplant, roasted bell peppers, Grana Padano, and green and kalamata olives. It’s a perfect platter for a group to share or a family of four.
If you’re a pizza fan or have kids in tow, they’ve got you covered. Il Fornao is known for its pizza and pasta of course, so if carbs aren’t a consideration, dive right in. From Italian sausage, mushrooms and white truffle oil and Prosciutto and cheese to Oregano, Burrata and Anduja pork sauce and Ham, Artichokes and olives’ toppings, you won’t be disappointed.
They also offer eight different pasta dishes on the menu and all the pasta is made on-site. They use Artisan pasta from Italy and you can get most of the dishes gluten-free as well, including gluten-free pasta. Bravo!
While we didn’t order any pasta on that particularly cold evening, if we return, I’d love to try their organic spinach ravioli filled with Italian sausage, ricotta, Grana Padano and fennel (wow, right?).
They also have a great seafood linguini combo which sounded scrumptious — load on the garlic and Trebbiano wine please. And, let’s not forget that simple can be incredible, as all angel hair pasta lovers know. There’s nothing like a simple plate of angel hair pasta with garlic, olive oil and basil. Here, they add chopped tomatoes and mariana sauce, although I am sure they can modify if you’re a pure olive oil snob like me.
Since we started with a Prosciutto and it was a chilly night, we went for two red meat dishes, which we paired with the Super Tuscan, the 2011 Barbaresco (Riva Leone, Peimonte) and the 2015 Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon.
The chefs at the Il Fornao Corte Madera location grill their Beef Tenderloin rare and serve it with a balsamic vinegar and green peppercorn sauce.
The dish was extremely tender and accompanied by organic spinach and Yukon Gold potatoes, but since I’m trying to limit my carbs, they substituted monster asparagus instead. Perfect with a little garlic, right?
Anthony went for the Braised Short Ribs, which literally fell off the bone with a push of the fork. They plate it up with some root veggies, pancetta and red wine and you also get a large dollop of mashed potatoes as well.
If its a warmer evening or you’re simply not a meat eater, they have vegetarian options for pasta, pizza and for mains. For example, you could even skip the chicken on some of the pasta offerings and just go for a side of broccoli or opt for their Butternut Squash Pasta filled with squash and walnuts, tomato sauce, brown butter, cheese and crispy sage. Insanely delicious sounding, right?
If you want to go lighter, they have plenty of light, crisp and buttery white wine options which you can pair up with one of their fish or chicken main courses. Their chicken is free-range and their Petto di Pollo comes with sage, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper spices with Dijon mustard and lemon.
There’s also their mixed grill seafood platter which combines salmon, sea bass, calamari, scallops and prawns together – so delish, right?
Ready for dessert? Were couldn’t be more full with so many selections however, we were curious what they had in store for their regular patrons and we were glad to have a few small tastes of their sweet variations.
After all, I was dining with an Italian after all which makes it hard to pass up Cannoli and Tiramisu. Not everyone serves Cannoli as you know, so it’s always a treat.
The Corte Madera Il Fornao location is at the end of an outdoor shopping plaza, so it is absolutely charming inside and out. If you’re there on a weekend, take in some window browsing or shopping in the afternoon and then end your day with some amazing Italian cuisine.
223 Corte Madera Town Center
Corte Madera CA 94925
Visit their website for more.
Disclosure note: We were hosted by the restaurant, but all opinions expressed are entirely our own.