Anyone familiar with the intersection of Bronson and Carling will know of the little restaurant known as Forno Antico. Even if you miss the conspicuous cords of wood, there is little chance you can miss the distinctive smell. It has operated in the same location for six years running, promoting one item as its signature dish – pizza cooked in a wood burning oven. Based on its looks, you might be inclined to think Forno is the longest running Ottawa restaurant of its class, but you would be wrong.
Forno Antico has not aged well, and appears well beyond its years. The interior is adequate, but showing signs of wear and tear: holes in the ceiling hidden by decorative vines and patchwork repairs to name a few. Furthermore, the kitchen is fully visible from most of the dining room. Usually this would be a nice feature that adds charm to the dining experience, but in this case, very little effort (if any) has been made to make the kitchen even remotely presentable. Even the wood burning oven – the single defining characteristic that represents everything Forno Antico stands for – appears to be in desperate need of some quality repairs.
Our pizza for the night was one that was highly recommended by our server, the traditional calabrese. It was prepared with a generous variety of quality toppings, and the quantity of pizza was good, but I couldn’t ignore the notable absence of cheese. Despite my suspicions, the flavours were actually very well balanced, and I would even say that adding more cheese would actually detract from the taste. On the other hand, the crust was a lot thicker and doughy than I expected for a wood fire pizza, and given the rectangular shape, the corners were far more cooked than the sides.
In the end, the pizza is tasty, it has character, and is clearly the result of years of practice and quality steeped in tradition. Unfortunately, I cannot shake the similarity between the pizza at Forno Antico and that of your perfectly cooked Delissio, albeit more expensive due to the copious quantity of fresh toppings. Forno Antico has to take better advantage of its location and tradition to provide people with an exceptional dining experience, as opposed to an experience of specialty pizza marred by a mediocre atmosphere.
My first thought was that they’ve really let this place go. Then I was told that it’s only been there for six years. If this is the state it was in at only 6 years, I can’t imagine that it started out much better. The front window had a huge crack running the length of it, which someone had tried to cover over with duct tape. Inside, the ceiling had holes in places, and it just felt like the furniture had been sitting there for decades. But we heard they served the best wood fire pizza in town, so we took a seat.
The service was great; we had an attentive server who was helpful with the menu, and the pizza came out fairly quickly. We were told that the calabrese was a very popular pizza, so we ordered a large to share. I was hesitant; I don’t usually enjoy sausage on my pizza, but I went with it. And I’m glad I did! The combination of black olives, sausage, red and yellow peppers was fantastic. The dough was thin and crispy, and nothing was soggy or overcooked. You could taste the acidity of the sauce, but it didn’t overpower the other, less bold ingredients. And the large size was just big enough for both of us to feel satisfied. Perfect.
I think Forno Antico is really a testament to the old saying, 'Don’t judge a book by its cover'. The place is run-down, and it’s in an old building on a terribly busy street, but the pizza is definitely worth it. In fact, I might even suggest getting the pizza to go. Then you won’t have to worry about the place falling down around you while you eat...
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*The link to Forno Antico is hit and miss. It will work one day, and be taken down the next.