Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 581-2401. Serving lunch Mon-Fri
11:30-3, dinner Mon-Sat 5-9:30. AE, MC, V.
Rustic (but Fancy) Italian
price range: $9 (Napoletana pizza) to $24 (bistecca
Chrome and glitz
Like its sister restaurant, Chianti, located at the other
end of downtown Saratoga’s Broadway, Forno Toscano is a triumph
of style. The name means “Tuscan oven,” and refers to the
wood-fired model you can see in the back of the restaurant.
According to owner David Zecchini, it’s where much of the
traditional Tuscan meal is fired.
With the city of Florence as its cultural center, Tuscany
boasts a high appreciation of art, so there’s also a kinship
with the highly artistic mise en scène in the new Saratoga
restaurant. What’s regarded as simple farmhouse cookery is
served in a busy ambiance of sculptured metal and low-level
lighting. Plate presentation is simple to the point of starkness,
but there’s plenty elsewhere on which to feast the eyes.
Meanwhile, the food itself is the stuff of a hearty feast.
Pasta! Meat! Plenty of wine! Not to mention tasty personal
pizzas with whisper-thin crusts, and an assortment of salads
with a variety of enhancements. If you visit for lunch, panini—those
ubiquitous grilled sandwiches—populate the menu.
But there’s also a sense of disconnectedness. It’s my only
complaint about the place, but it’s pervasive, so let’s get
it out of the way now and then spend some time savoring the
During my first visit, my daughter and I arrived just before
5 PM and were seated in an alcove near the door. I assumed
that we were given lunch menus because we’d arrived at the
tail end of that meal, and thus could order something lighter
and less expensive. And so we fashioned a course of courses.
Ah, those dangerous assumptions!
No, our host had simply given us the wrong menus. Now, it’s
entirely my fault that I returned the following day at 4 PM
without first checking the hours. It was only then that I
learned of lunch’s cessation at 3. “But take a walk,” the
host advised. “Come back around quarter to five, sit down,
we’ll take care of you.”
Returning promptly at that time, we were told to sit at the
bar—until we reached the bar, where we were told to
sit at a table near the bar because my kid is younger
than 18. None of this reflects any wrongdoing whatsoever on
the part of the restaurant, but it undermines one’s sense
of well-being, that elusive quality so vital to inspiring
repeat visits. Everyone working the floor needs to be on the
During both visits, we watched the place fill early and quickly,
and service took the predictable hit when that happened. Very
few Capital Region restaurants have anything even approaching
good service; most rest aurateurs put their money in the kitchen,
in a chef, in décor, and then hire a few kids and turn them
loose on the floor—and then, as is often whispered to me,
blame the servers when customers complain.
The fact is, a good system is needed. Servers shouldn’t be
huddled in corners conversing; customers shouldn’t wait (as
I did) for 10 minutes after the entrée plates have been cleared
before seeing their server again. And where was the host when
As I mentioned, the lunch menu features a list of sandwiches
($8-$9) featuring homemade bread (rosemary foccacia, for instance)
and components such as spinach, sausage, mozzarella, flank
steak and more.
A pizza, although described as a single serving, is enough
to feed two of anyone (except teenagers). The pizza list is
identical on the lunch and dinner menus, but the lunch pizzas
are two to three dollars cheaper. I sampled the dinner-sized
(or at least -priced) Calabrese ($10), which you could mistake
for a pepperoni pie, except that the sausage is drier and
has a much snappier flavor. And there’s nothing like a thin
crust coming out of a wood-fired oven.
Dinner starters include an excellent, oversized plate of fried
calamari ($9) that’s more about the seafood than the bread,
thank goodness; it’s so nicely seasoned and tender that you’ll
avail yourself of the accompanying tomato sauce but little.
Bruschetta is a Tuscan mainstay, but I lament its absence
from this menu not at all. In its place is focaccia ai
formaggi ($8), a homemade bread stuffed with four cheeses
(grana padano, mozzarella, fontina and, providing the
dominant flavor, gorgonzola). Again, it’s a big enough portion
for at least two people.
Dinner-sized salads ($8-$9) can be ordered with chicken, flank
steak, pancetta, roasted vegetables, or just fresh tomatoes
When you get the good stuff, pancetta is a flavor marvel.
I convinced my daughter to try spaghetti alla carbonara
($12), with its classic mix of pancetta, egg and cheese (here
grana padano). She went nuts for it, and it was all I could
do to get enough of a sample to judge the result.
The béchamel-rich lasagne ($10) has more layers of pasta than
I’ve ever seen in the mix before, but I can’t fault the flavors,
with a strong meat component adding richness. And it’s baked
and served in boxlike black bowls, a novel and appropriate
So highly did our first-night server praise the rack of lamb
($24) that it became my next-visit entrée. As promised, it’s
the entire rack, and thus far too much meat. I would have
paid the same amount for four chops, especially if they were
sliced and handsomely arrayed on the plate. It’s a delicious
preparation, sauce-free (Tuscan style) but rich with a mixture
of herbs, served with roasted potatoes and a sauté of broccoli
Although I would have enjoyed dipping biscotti in a dessert
wine, we stayed in a Tuscan mood during one of our visits
by heading into town for a stop at Eugenio’s Café Gelato (419
Broadway), where a scoop of chocolate and a double espresso
hit the spot.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Moriarty’s (430 Broadway)
is holding a wild game dinner tonight (Thursday),
with a menu consisting of such unusual items as
appetizer preparations of ostrich and alligator,
and an entrée selection that includes moulard
duck, sliced buffalo sirloin and wild salmon,
as well as a mixed grill of wild boar, pheasant
and venison, all prepared by executive chef Jim
Kelly. For more info and reservations, phone the
restaurant at 587-5981. . . . Remember to pass
your scraps to Metroland (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
want your feedback
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..