“Al forno” literally just translates as “in the oven”. This follows a theme where many foods, especially from abroad, are named after their cooking dishes. Balti, paella (albeit disputed), tagine, are all good examples. It is therefore heartening that a place, according to the Internet at least, that boasts great pizza gets straight to the point and simply names itself “In the oven”.
Al Forno in Wimbledon is everything in terms of decor you would expect from an independent Italian, slightly hidden away just off the High Street and split over two floors. My lunchtime visit was part of a pre-football match ritual which is either pizza or tapas; today it just happened to be the former that was chosen, in a hurry, so some reliance on Google was placed absent proper research.
The weather was just sufficiently acceptable to risk dining al fresco and despite being yards from the high street, it isn’t a pedestrian thoroughfare which I am thankful for. But this is where I have to dispose of the negative. The service was, well, honestly, difficult to describe. Polite enough staff, prompt on occasion, but also overly attentive in some moments in others and lackadaisical in others. In of itself that isn’t a problem, but is noticeable against a backdrop of an otherwise solid performance.
In some cases, such quirks are almost part of the experience – I’ve previously discussed this regarding tapas. In others it can be easily forgiven if the food and other aspects are great, and this is where Al Forno shone. The fiorentina pizza was excellent; loaded with topping on a thin and crispy base which I can feel very safe in saying was homemade and prepared in a properly fired oven. My friends both had variants of chicken in a cream sauce with sauteed potatoes and in all cases the portions were proper “Italian Mama”. It is not often I am defeated when ordering sensibly, but in this case I was. The “small” pizza could’ve easily fed two for a light lunch and I dread to think how many could be fed by the medium or large variants (which, according to an image search on Google, are literally table sized).
Despite being defeated, I made room for dessert. Well, shared a dessert. Homemade tiramasu can never be ignored…… it was a solid effort by Al Forno, but could’ve done with a more liberal dosing of coffee and amaretto to confirm to my personal taste. Whilst I only had bottled beer, a browse of the wine list suggested an amicably priced and decent selection, with some notable solid Italians featuring.
Regular readers will know I love trying new places; I am rarely a creature of habit returning to the same place repeatedly – very few hostelries enjoy that honour. In this case though, I can guarantee I shall return. Probably in greater force and most likely for a full blown Italian dinner experience. Given the portion sizes at Al Forno, I think I should stop eating now in preparation.
|Restaurant Name||Al Forno|
|Price Range||£20 a head (Lunch)|
|Phone||0208 540 5710|
|Address||2A King's Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 8QN|