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Restaurant review: Il Forno, Nicosia

If a restaurant is judged by the number of occupied seats between mid-morning and late evening seven days a week, then Il Fourno would be in the premier division. Even on a sweltering Wednesday night it was necessary to book a table. My party consisted of the companion, my grandson Alexander, and his charming partner, Lydia.

The restaurant is situated in the centre of Ledra Street with the majority of covers set up outside with a few inside for the air conditioning. The tables are reasonably spaced though the metal chairs are uncomfortable for anyone wearing light clothing. The menu is extensive, with pasta and pizza dominating. The waiter hovers, awaiting the order and seems to be in a hurry. There are six salads mostly of the usual variety but we select the one described as ‘new’ comprising a selection of greens, parmesan flakes, prawns and cherry tomatoes; this is for four diners.

The junior members decide to share a pizza, but which one? They all come in the same size but have the most exotic names: Margherita – mozzarella and tomatoes; Acciughe – mozzarella, anchovies, capers, onions and oregano; Boscaiola – mozzarella, fresh cream, spinach, Greek fetta and garlic, and so on.

Altogether, there are 18 to choose from. They settle for the one with ham, bacon and spinach. There is a limited range of pasta from the existing 30 known varieties, including gnocchi and tortellini – they attract an additional cost – with penne, tagliatelle, fusilli and naturally, spaghetti. All of these can be served with 21 different sauces, either red or white containing a wealth of ingredients such as mussels and prawns, asparagus, bacon, basil, pine nuts, anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes. The companion wants the gnocchi, and of the baked pasta I choose the canneloni but this is off and I settle for the lasagne, a dish in which the companion excels. It should be mentioned that the establishment produce a large number of vegetarian dishes. So far, so good. The wine list contains a very reasonably priced range of Italian wines.

The salad is huge on greens, a veritable mountain, supporting very generous Parmesan flakes and eight large shelled prawns. All very satisfactory and served with a little bowl of freshly baked rolls and a dip of olive oil. The place is packed. There are whole families seated and a similar number waiting for a vacant table; the waiters are sprinting everywhere but sadly not to us. Following the acceptable salad, there is an absence of waiterly attention. Our table remains uncleared and no sign of the main course. The younger members are beginning to wilt from hunger. Where is the pizza? A full 50 minutes pass before it arrives. Now, we can see the place is jumping, but this is too much.

The pizza is good in all parts: crisp, fresh and full of goodness. Alas, the same cannot be said of the gnocchi. The Italian companion, knows a thing or two about this dish and what is on the plate does not pass muster. Too much flour has given the potatoes – the main ingredient – the consistency of unbaked dough and therefore unpalatable. My lasagne is huge, packed with meat, but a little too much liquid for my taste, otherwise, apart from the usual battle with the mozzarella, most acceptable. The abandoned gnocchi attracts no comment from the waiter, who again had to be persuaded to clear the table.

The sweet menu offers six dishes: pannacotta, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, lemon cheesecake, Il Forno’s own gelato and profiteroles. However, only pannacotta; ‘made on the premises’, and mousse are available. Another interminable wait, which seems completely unjustifiable, but enables the female contingent to trawl the local shops, results in a creamless mousse: no constistency and a pannacotta, about which no comment will be made. A most disappointing evening.

SPECIALTY: Italian cuisine
WHERE: Ledra Street, Nicosia
CONTACT: 22-456454
PRICE: Every main dish is €11.60 or €12.60

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