SARATOGA SPRINGS — The porch is being cleaned, paint cans are ready, the awnings are going up, and Forno Bistro is getting ready for the warm weather.
The large, deep porch at the front of the old firehouse building sits back from the street, separated by vegetation that’s just starting to show signs of life. Inside, the large, airy dining room had a funky, organic makeover in 2017. The bar, which anchors the large dining room, appears to be constructed of reclaimed corrugated metal and wood. Pillars covered in tree bark will make you to take a second look.
If you noticed the old sprinkler that’s been repurposed into a hostess station, then you’ll probably appreciate the other offbeat, industrial detritus now part of the very cool decor. Take a second, closer look around. Wait, is that part of a turbine made into a ceiling fixture?
David Zecchini, who came to Saratoga Springs by way of Rome, Italy, and California, opened his first restaurant, Chianti Il Ristorante, here in Saratoga in 1998, turning an old chain restaurant building on Route 50 into something unrecognizable: an elegant and intimate space.
The exterior of Forno Bistro in Saratoga Springs.
He went on to open several more restaurants in the area, including Pasta Pane in Clifton Park, which was later sold, Forno Bistro in 2004, and in 2012 added a tapas bar, Boca Bistro on Broadway in Saratoga Springs.
Fabrizio Bazzani is executive chef overseeing the restaurants under the DZ umbrella (think David Zecchini), including Chianti Il Ristorante and Boca Bistro. At Forno, Sous Chef Eric Randazzo runs the kitchen.
The Tuscan-inspired menu makes good use of the wood-fired oven and is tweaked seasonally. Their website is currently featuring the spring menu.
Seasonal cuisine done well means that a restaurant has good local purveyors, and Forno Bistro sources from area farms, including Groovy Greens in Glens Falls, Old World Farm in Stillwater and Willow Marsh Farm in Ballston Spa. Fred the Butcher in Halfmoon dispenses advice on aging beef.
Tuscan cooking is some of the simplest, humblest in Italy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sumptuous. Forno Bistro’s food is rooted in Tuscan heritage, and open to new interpretations.
A dish from Forno Bistro in Saratoga Springs.
The kitchen takes pride in selecting fresh local produce, products and protein, and their culinary philosophy is one of simplicity and respect for tradition.
A typical Tuscan meal usually starts with cured meats, like salami and prosciutto, and crostini,
perhaps with chicken livers. Then there’s the pasta, followed by meat or fish with side dishes, and finally dessert.
You can do the same at Forno, starting perhaps with antipasto del Forno, a selection of calamari, capers, arancini, focaccia and salami, or bruschetta alla barbabietola (beets). Follow it with fungi e pisseli, a pasta dish with pancetta, peas, mushrooms and butternut squash cream.
The pollo panato, or breaded chicken breast, is one of their most popular dishes. It’s served with melted mozzarella and fontina cheeses, prosciutto, lemon and fresh herbs. Or try the bistecca del giorno, steak of the day.
ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Chef Eric Randazzo, of Ballston Spa, prepares a Vongole dish at Forno Bistro on Broadway in Saratoga Springs on Friday, April 19, 2019.
Or you can just have a pizza. They’re wood-fired, single serving, with a thin crust, and Forno’s selections range from a simple Margherita to white pizza that pairs sweet poached pears with gorgonzola and bitter arugula.
The wine list at Forno is “Italian-centric,” meaning you can find classic wines from the regions of Sicily, Veneto and Tuscany, but if you’re on the porch on a warm summer night a glass of floral Finger Lakes Reisling or Domain Chandon Brut sparkling wine from California might be just what you want, and they have that, too.
More from Dine 2019: Saratoga County
- Four Seasons is Saratoga Springs' go-to restaurant for vegetarian and vegan food
- Galway's Cock ‘n Bull still going strong after 43 years
- Nonna Maria's of Halfmoon brings home cooking to your table
- Delmonico's: An Italian-inspired steakhouse in Clifton Park and Colonie
- Powers Inn and Pub mixes tradition and creativity in Clifton Park
There are eight draft lines flowing and beer selections are local, changing on a regular basis. Forno has its own beer brand brewed locally called Helping Hands, a reference to the charitable work DZ Restaurants does. A portion of the proceeds go to local charities, and the variety of beer and brewery changes every few months.
Current promotions at Forno Bistro include a beer and pizza special for $14, and with their Tuesday Take-Out, you can bring home two wood-fired pizzas and half-tray of their salad for $20.
So the warm weather is finally here, coaxing us outside, to restaurant patios and porches. Forno Bistro will be ready, for you.