Il Fornaio, famous for serving classic Italian fare in pristine locations across the country, as well as helping inspire Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, has brought its elegant feel to Woodland Hills’ Westfield Topanga.
Il Fornaio Woodland Hills
“Two words: authentic Italian,” said Michael Mindel, SVP of Marketing and son of Il Fornaio Founder Laurence Mindel. “Americans got caught up in Spaghetti and meatballs and things that true Italians would never prepare. We saw a big opportunity to provide what true Italian food really is.”
Il Fornaio does just that, plating favorites from across Italy that most Americans may not be familiar with, but will salivate at on first sight. Mare chiaro [linguini with mixed seafood], zimino d’aragosta [crab soup in lobster broth] and bietole [beet salad] are but a few favorites that circulate through the restaurant’s standard and regional menus.
“We’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of Festa Regionale,” said Mindel about the rotating selections that highlight specials from different Italian regions. “Italy is a big country. There is an incredibly rich culinary repertoire from which to draw from.”
Fest Regionale allows Il Fornaio to give its patrons their long-time favorites while experimenting with new tastes and trends. Case in point: their pennoni—oversized penne-shaped pasta with bacon and vodka cream sauce—is something to come back for time and time again while the delizie del mare—perfectly-cooked shrimp, calamari and scallops with unbelievable cous cous-like pasta—is a surprise that will be remembered for years to come.
Il Fornaio Woodland Hills marks another step the chain is taking to appeal to multiple generations. But don’t get too caught up in the ‘chain’ part, as Il Fornaio truly seeks to tailor its experience to its surroundings.
“It’s the first [Il Fornaio] that we’ve opened in the last 7 years…It’s very different than our other locations,” Mindel said.
The Woodland Hills Il Fornaio houses a very different feel than its sisters in Del Mar, San Francisco and Palo Alto, CA, which have all been open since 1989*. The dining room has a much higher energy that matches its high-end shopping mall environment, as well as the crowd that frequents it.
Those looking for the serene escape that classic Il Fornaio provides, however, will find just that while dining on the restaurant’s patio.
Benjamin Brown, MBA is a seasoned restaurant writer and consultant. Expert in F&B marketing, pricing, analytics, consumer insights and business development. Ben also writes a monthly restaurant business column, "The Bottom Line," in Socal and Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional Magazines.