We had quite the treat last night as guests for the soft opening of Trattoria Al Forno, the newest restaurant located on the Boardwalk. This restaurant occupies the space that was Kouzzina and there was mixed feelings from guests about the closing, with many absolutely loving the Greek-Mediterranean fare offered. Trattoria Al Forno also has elements of Mediterranean fare, but will focus on Italian dishes, and will serve breakfast and dinner daily.
We arrived for our 8:45 reservation to an absolutely packed house. The entry way is pretty large, but offered no seating, which was a little strange. The only seating is outside of the restaurant if you have to wait for your table. In a clever move, they left an opening that connects to the candy store, so people that choose not to indulge in dessert think about reconsidering on the way out. Immediately, you see the wine case which looks like a wine bookshelf. Over 60 types of Italian wine are chilling, giving you time to pick out your favorite.
At about 9:15, we were walked to our table. The staff is very knowledgeable about their restaurant and used a lot of Italian terms to really make this an experience, rather than just a dinner. The restaurant is beautiful, dressed in dark rich browns and with oversized chandeliers. In any place you sit, you can see some design element that was carefully chosen to impress. There are three main “rooms”, representing the kitchen, dining and living rooms you might find in someone’s home. There are open ovens, representing the translation of the name of the restaurant, meaning baked in an oven.
We started with the Venetian Mussels with Tomato-Curry Broth and Grilled Bread ($11.99). The broth in this dish is different than any other mussel broth I have ever tasted. It was rich, but not overwhelming. The curry was just the right kick and while it was spicy, it was also sweet as the garnish was ripe green apples. We thought about picking up the plate to make sure all of the broth was accounted for, but decided to just soak our bread in it until it was gone so we didn’t look like cavemen! We also wanted to try the calamari, but sadly they were sold out. Other choices included Thin-sliced Italian Cured Meats with House-pickled Peppers, Olives, and Caponata ($15.99) which seems to be the recommended appetizer and Grilled Treviso with Gorgonzola Dolce and Pistachio Gremolata ($7.99). Salads and a soup of the day are also offered.
We wanted to order the Slow-cooked Lamb Shank with soft Polenta ($26.99), but they had run out. So, we decided to check out the Braised Beef Bolognese with House-made Cavatelli ($21.99) and the Wood-grilled Shrimp with Garlic, Caper, and Anchovy Butter with Polenta ($21.99). The Bolognese was very delicious, as it was slow cooked to perfection, barely requiring more than a fork. It was served over a very small amount of pasta and the amount of beef on the plate was quite impressive. The Shrimp dish was just okay, as the anchovy paste pretty much steals the show and flavors the polenta. The amount of polenta on the plate was too much and was now a fishy polenta. While I can’t say that I disliked the dish, as I did eat all 7 nicely sized shrimp and was full and satisfied, I will order something different when we return. Other choices include Chicken Breast alla Parmigiana with Tagliatelle ($21.99) which people were raving about and the portion was HUGE, Eggplant Rollatini with Shaved Fennel-Arugula Salad ($17.99), Pork Chop alla Milanese topped with Shaved Fennel-Arugula Salad ($23.99) and a T-Bone Steak Florentine with Broccolini ($36.99). They also offer handmade pizzas with choices like Fennel Sausage, Salame Piccante, and House-pickled Peppers ($18.99), Roasted Portobello Mushroom and Cipollini Onions with Arugula ($18.99), Smoked Prosciutto, Potato, Rosemary, and Mozzarella ($16.99) and the very enticing Truffle Cream with Asiago, Pecorino, and Fontina ($16.99).
It seemed to be our theme for the night, but 3 desserts were not being offered by the time we were ready, so we chose desserts we would not have ordered if others were available. I had the “Spaghetti” Gelato and “Meatballs” ($5.19) which was supposed to look like vanilla gelato made into spaghetti. It was actually just a small scoop of gelato with some raspberries on it. We also had the Piedmont Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake with Oranges and Whipped Cream ($6.49) which was delicious. It was very nutty and earthy and paired well with some pasticcio gelato our server brought over for us to taste. We would have loved to try the Lemon Panna Cottawith Almond Crunch and Macerated Berries (No Sugar Added & Gluten-free) ($6.49), Cannoli Pizzelle filled with Chocolate and Pistachio Cream ($6.99) or Tiramisù (Lady Finger soaked with Espresso and layered with Italian Mascarpone Cream $6.99), but we certainly will the next time we return.
Overall, Trattoria Al Forno is a restaurant that has a few kinks to iron out, but that is expected with any new opening to a brand new concept. The entire staff was friendly, knowledgeable and ready to help in any situation. Once the restaurant is open for a few weeks and they get a better understanding of what will be popular items, I am sure running out of food will not even be an issue. Service was slow, as we were at our table over 1 ½ hours, but they have soft openings for a reason! I am so excited to see what will become of Trattoria Al Forno, as I think Disney has a hit on their hands with a combination of fresh, delicious food and a friendly staff in a beautiful restaurant.
3 out of 5 stars for slow service, menu choices being unavailable and some other kinks that we hope will elevate this score the next time we return! But, this is a delicious, exciting and beautiful restaurant!
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Food: This Italian menu has a lot to offer from staples like Chicken Parm, Pizza and Eggplant Rollatini to Lamb Shank and T-bone Steak. There is something on this menu that everyone in your family will enjoy. Ask your server for suggestions, as there are house favorites!
Atmosphere: Laid back, casual with a dark interior. You will feel like you are dining in someone’s home as you can be seated in the kitchen, dining room or living room areas of the restaurant.
Service: Servers have extensive wine and food knowledge and will make suggestions about what is best on the menu. Large staff in a large restaurant, so there is always someone available to get you what you need when you need it.
Tips: Advanced reservations are recommended as many are eager to try the newest restaurant. Trattoria Al Forno accepts the Disney dining plan as one table service credit. If you can’t get in for dinner, try breakfast! Buon appetito!