Originally published August 14, 2008
As the steakhouse trend reaches epic proportions, with premium-priced cuts served alongside the usual suspects of sides and steakhouse-priced wines, I’m happy to report on a casual, delicious, affordable alternative!
The ribeye at Fornos of Italy in Houston weighs in at 14 oz. and is served, perfectly cooked to order, on a seriously sizzling platter. Tender, flavorful, damn-near perfect, it arrives with a side of really garlicky mashed potatoes that is large enough for at least two people and costs $27. (The menu says “market price,” but that’s what it cost on a recent evening.) What is that — just over half the price of just a ribeye, no sides, at most upscale steakhouses these days?
Fornos is exactly the kind of casual, unassuming, good food place that you wish you had around the corner. (And maybe you do — have you checked out the offerings in the strip mall nearest you?) It’s presided over by chef/owner Armando Florido, who opened the place nearly twenty years ago and serves up large portions of Italian-American comfort food.
Menu winners include a Sausage & Peppers starter doused in a rich marinara, and a Parmesan-Crusted Asparagus topped with crab meat and lemon butter caper sauce. Pastas are straightforward and satisfying, like the Pasta al Forno with its grilled chicken, mushrooms and peas adorning creamy fettuccini Alfredo. Snapper is flaky and delicate and anointed in a buttery sauce. And Fornos’ tres leches is addictive stuff, cold, creamy, sweet and drizzled with caramel.
The wine program seems to be a work in progress, with a selection of more interesting wines hopefully replacing at least a portion of the big production, ho-hum stuff. That being said, there are a handful of nice Italian reds at good prices — I enjoyed every drop of my half of a bottle of a Rosso di Montalcino that clocked in at around $40, if memory serves.
Fornos is the kind of place that inspires loyal regulars ordering the same favorite dishes, tweaked the same favorite way. It’s the kind of place that you could end up frequenting for the next ten years without even realizing that you’re in a rut. (And what a well-fed rut that would be!) It’s the kind of place you should check out!
Fornos of Italy
6439 W 43rd St
Houston, TX 77092