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#1
Posted July 23rd 2011, 11:37am
Antico Forno in Elmwood Park

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had my first bite at Antico Forno last week, over a year after it opened. Even eating out 3-4 times per week, I just can’t keep up with the approximately 10,000 restaurants in the Chicagoland area; not enough time or belly real estate.

Antico Forno is on North Avenue in Elmwood Park, in the space formerly occupied by Claudio’s bakery. They specialize in wood-fired pizza.

Antico Forno owner Sal Sciortino and I met at a Cubs’ game (and later Murphy’s) in 2003, when he still owned and operated I Gemelli in Addison. I actually reported on “Cub’s jail” and incidents related to this happenstance adventure on Chowhound. One advantage of being a compulsive poster on Chowhound and then LTH is that posts, whether or not they're my own, function as a kind of diary, mnemonic prompts that help me place what I've been doing over the past decade or so. I'm sure others have this same experience, and it's kind of revealing to look back and see what Vital Information, JeffB, ReneG, MikeG and the legendary RST were thinking about back then.

Turns out, I had a Bloomspot coupon ($60 for $30) for Antico Forno, and it was way too hot to cook at home last Wednesday, so it seemed like the right night to try a new place.

We started with the eggplant parmesan. At Antico Forno, this Italian restaurant standard was elevated way beyond what we’ve had elsewhere. My daughter, Josie, who has lived in Milan, compared it favorably to versions she’d had in Italy. The fresh slices of eggplant were very lightly breaded, slightly caramelized, and the subtle bitterness of the vegetable was well balanced against the sweeter sauce.

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The bread served with dinner was also very simple and yet some of the most beautiful stuff I can remember being served in an Italian restaurant. It’s basically the same dough used in the pizza, but shaped into small balls. I asked Sciortino about it, mentioning that a lot of times it seemed Italian restaurants served something like off-the-shelf Turano’s. He said, “If you’re going to run a restaurant, why use someone else’s bread. It’s like when you go out to eat and they have Eli’s cheesecake on the menu. Why would you pay six dollars for a slice of cheesecake that I bought from someone else. We make all our own stuff.”

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According to their website, “98% of the menu is prepared and made in house from raw ingredients.”

We had two pizzas, a Napoletana and Capricciosa.

On both, the cheese was a touch heavy (by Italian standards), but I think that’s a common issue with many made- in-America pizzas. Pizza makers have to appeal to their audience. I’m guessing a lot of Antico Forno’s customers prefer more rather than less cheese on their pizza.

The crust was a good balance of thin and crusty, not the very soft Neapolitan style, but substantial enough to support a healthy dose of toppings.

Napoletana included mozzarella and very thin, flavorful anchovies. The sauce could very easily have been made in-house.

The Capricciosa was topped with prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, black olives and artichokes, a very pleasing combination of flavors.

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Sciortino plans to make his own Parmesan cheese, and that should be some indication of his big plans for Antico Forno, which is well worth a visit.

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Prices are very reasonable; most of the pizza pies are in the $13-14 range and the wine list has a lot of bottles under $30.

There’s a quality commitment and a pride at Antico Forno that makes me trust what Sciortino and his crew are doing in the kitchen, and that makes me eager to explore their menu.


Antico Forno 7308 W. North Avenue
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
708.456.2445
http://antico-forno.com/index.htm
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#2
Posted July 23rd 2011, 10:19pm
Inspired by David's write up. I went to Antico Forno for dinner tonight. I called at 7:15pm for a seat on a Saturday night and 15 minutes later we were there. We were asked by a gracious host if we wanted to sit at the bar or at a table. We chose a table by the big picture window at front of the restaurant. Big mistake. At 7:30, the flies in the restaurant were trying to leave through the window. Four kills later the entertainment was over and the two lingering decided to leave us alone.

The bread was brought out. It was warm and delicious. I ordered a drink and like all the bar selections it was quickly brought to the table. 15 minutes later we ordered and then we waited and waited. Over half an hour later the appetizers and soup were presented all at once to the table. This is the first time I saw my waiter since the order was made and I commented " I thought you forgot about us." He attempted to assure us that he did not. The minestrone soup was hot and tasty once some salt and Parmesan cheese were added. The vegetables in the soup were fresh with a nice crunch. The wood roasted shrimp, crostini caprese and grilled octopus & calamari were all luke warm. It seemed that they were cooked and then left out to cool for 10 minutes before serving. We were hungry so we ate them. About 10 minutes later the server came to the table and asked how we were enjoying the appetizers. I told him they were average to below average because of the temperature. At which point he offered to take the grilled octopus and calamari which was our least favorite and barely touched due not only to the temperature, but also due to its lack of flavor. A fried calamari was then brought to the table as a substitute for the other failed appetizers. It was piping hot and delicious. By far the best food of the night.

For dinner we split the crab-stuffed ravioli. It was good not great. Again it was served warm, not hot, probably because they waited to bring it after we finished the calamari. The temperature had minimal impact on this dish compared with the others. It had scallops (my favorite) which were not overcooked which often happens when scallops are served with pasta.

The desserts were very good I had the panna cotta which was great for a summer night. The lemoncello was good but the chocolate martini was just average.

The staff were very apologetic about the unsatisfactory dishes and the owner actually came to the table to apologize. Despite the problems, I think that I may have caught a good restaurant at a bad time. I plan on going back and think it might be a good choice for the Oak Park dare I say he-man women-haters club night out.
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#3
Posted February 20th 2012, 8:24pm
According to their Facebook page - they closed 1/28/12. I called to verify and the phone's been disconnected.
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#4
Posted February 21st 2012, 9:54am
I tried going there 2 weeks ago and the message on their VM confirmed that unfortunately closed on 1/28. I only ate there once and I've been craving it since. I was determined to make it a new neighborhood staple for me. I'm chalking it up to bad signage, location and lack of weekday diners. Boo.
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#5
Posted February 21st 2012, 10:03am
That location is trouble. There's no place to park.
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