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“Pleasantly surprised”
4 of 5 bubbles Review of Il Fornaio

Il Fornaio
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Ranked #23 of 356 Restaurants in Palo Alto
Price range: US$10 - US$50
Cuisines: Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Business meetings, Kids, Child-friendly, Romantic, Special Occasion Dining, Groups
Dining options: Drinks, Dinner, Breakfast, After-hours, Lunch, Full Bar, Highchairs Available, Outdoor Seating, Parking Available, Private Dining, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Takeout, Waitstaff, Wheelchair Accessible
Dining style: Casual Dining
Cross street: Hamilton
Transit: Cal Train
Level Contributor
246 reviews
171 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 161 helpful votes
“Pleasantly surprised”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 25 May 2014

We were tired from travelling all morning and didn't want to go far. Noticing how full the courtyard part of the restaurant was, we decided it could not be as bad as some reviews claimed and tentatively entered from the street into a large space taking up most of the ground floor of the downtown Garden Court Hotel. There is some outside seating in front, overlooking the road, and, past the open kitchen taking up part of the large space, another room and a large covered courtyard at the back which was full over the weekend, at both lunch and dinner.

Learning there was a wood fired oven, we ordered a Margherita pizza $15 which unfortunately was rather basic, lacking the better quality ingredients essential if you are going to offer this most demanding and traditional of pizzas - and the base was missing the necessary crispness. Our other entree was lasagne, one of the house specials, was rich and creamy. The complimentary bread was warm and good but the olive oil and balsamic vinegar with it were not good quality. Portions are on the generous side.

As we were staying in the hotel, we decided the place showed enough promise and returned the next day before departing for our flight home. We explained our hurry, ordered one entree each, and were out in under 45 minutes. We had the delicious lasagne again, and again it was one of the best we've had anywhere, with a superb umami flavor imparted by the portobello mushrooms in the sauce.

We also had the Capellini al Pomodoro $15: angel hair pasta, chopped tomatoes, garlic, marinara sauce and fresh basil. Although not mentioned on the menu, the waiter asked if we would like to add prawns or chicken which were an extra $5. So, 5 medium large prawns came with the Pomodoro, which was fresh tasting, with a good tomato sauce and good chopped fresh tomatoes on top.

Large tables are not under pressure to order even if some of their group are very late, because the restaurant is never full to bursting. However, a brunch table of 10 had their food delivered in partial stages of about 2 dishes at a time over a 5 minute period, quite a long time to wait with your meal cooling in front of you, as some had to do. The group waited in strained silence although they dug in once everyone had been served, chatting happily.

Service is good, the courtyard is very pleasant, and it's clearly very popular locally. We pre-booked both times as we wanted to sit in the courtyard. If you're happy to sit inside, booking does not seem necessary.

Visited May 2014
1 Thank exotissima1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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231 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Traditional) first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Greek first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
San Francisco, California
2 reviews
“Reliably Pleasant”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 22 May 2014

I've been to several of Il Fornaio's restaurants and I keep coming back when I need someplace that I can depend upon for a nice meal in a pleasant setting. The food is consistently good but just shy of exceptional. I appreciate that the seating is comfortable - never tightly packed - and I've never seen it noisy or difficult to hold a conversation. Great, reliable place for a nice and undistracted business lunch.

  • Visited May 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank JoeSandmeyer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
101 reviews
55 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
“Nice atmosphere with erratic service”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 May 2014

The place is nice, but the service can be way off. The food tended to be good but the pacing wasn’t there. It almost seemed that the restaurant had just opened and was trying to work out its kinks with some waiters doing some things and others doing others without anybody really knowing what was going on. The Minestrone soup was good as was the Pizza Margherita. The ravioli was also quite good, but the service was so off that you couldn’t help but notice the problems and throwing off an otherwise pretty good meal.

  • Visited April 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank S T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chelan, Washington
Level Contributor
21 reviews
20 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“A nice choice in Palo Alto”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 22 April 2014

We picked this restaurant over others in the area at the suggestion of our dinner guest who lives in the area. This place is huge, but very well operated. The staff was very friendly and accommodating. Our waiter, Christop, was attentive and always on the spot at the right time without swarming. We split a very tasty spinach salad. My tagliatelle entree was excellent. My wife had the orecchiette with Italian sausage which she reported was a bit on the dry side. Christop suggested a bottle of wine that was being featured and it was excellent at a great price. For one of a chain of restaurants, this one felt family owned, and we highly recommend a visit.

  • Visited April 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1 Thank Sewerguy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
77 reviews
25 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“Average quality”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 April 2014

I went to this restaurant for a business dinner.
Although nothing was wrong and the food was reasonable, I think that several (important) details should be improved. First of all, the service was quite slow and not always accurate.
Secondly, I think the restaurant should try to improve its Italian flavor: as an example, how can you list a dish of pasta under the heading of second dishes? Lastly, I was surprised that the wine they offered to us was not Italian.
I cannot judge about the price, since someone else payed for me.

  • Visited April 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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