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Il Fornaio Pasadena (long)

  • t

I had a very disappointing dinner there last night. Although I have never considered this chain as truly top notch, I has never been so disappointed eating at any of the particular locations either.

We arrived appx 7:20, party of four, and was promptly seated (the place was only half full). One of my dining companions is Hindu, on the the zone/Atkins diet, and on medication so pasta & seafood were out of the question. We ordered the agnolotti with roasted chicken with a wild mushroom cream sauce, florentine porterhouse, salmon/whitefish ravioli, and lamb shank. Our waitress came back and told us that sorry, she was out of the lamb shank and porterhouse. So we ordered the beef tenderloin and pork chop. Sorry! We are out of the pork chop. Well, it was about 7:40 and they are pretty much out of all their meats except for the beef tenderloin and the chicken breast. My friend ended up with only a bowl of lentil soup and a salad. My "agnolotti" was actually very delicious, the slight smokiness of the roasted chicken stuffing complemented the mushroom sauce very well. However, it was NOT agnolitti but rather large, flat ravioli. I thought it was a little weird, I mean, why bother calling it something that it isn't? Anyway, my SO ordered the the beef tenderloin and I had a bite. It very very mushy and flavorless. It came with a balsamic reduction sauce and was layered over bland polenta. The whole dish had very little flavor, except for the cloying sweetness of the sauce. I thought mushiness of the beef with the mushiness of the polenta was not very appetizing. Texturally the dish was just bad. It did come with a side of wilted spinach though. My other friend's dish of pesce ravioli was very fishy. I don't think they put baccala in it but it tasted a more like baccala than salmon and whitefish, except it lacked the flaky, salty aspect of baccala. To give credit where it is due, we had the tiramisu and it was very good.

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  1. How disappointing. Did you ask to speak to the Manager? It's absurd for a restaurant to be "out" of 3 entrees at 7:40 in the evening.

    I would definitely have had a word with the Manager on duty to register my displeasure. The least they could have done is comp your tiramisu.

    3 Replies
    1. re: lynnz

      I didn't want to cause a scene because I was talking about business with one of my dining companions.

      I tend to be more passive if I have guests, so as not to make them uncomfortable.

      1. re: tissue

        I understand and I wouldn't suggest calling the Manager over to your table or having a conversation in front of your guests.

        I would have excused myself and gone to the Host/ess and asked to speak with them, perhaps after the meal was finished. Another option is phoning them the next day...

        1. re: tissue

          i'm completely with you on this, tissue.
          when dining with business colleagues or dining with a date, imho it is not advisable to take time out to educate the manager about what is wrong with his/her restaurant.

      2. I've never thought Il Fornaio was good and I never understood what people liked about it either.

        1. This place is horrible-
          The minestrone soup tasted like it came out of a can-
          The seafood appetizers smelled fishy and was made with low grade shrimp and calamari-
          Oh and the service just bad-
          We had to ask our snooty waiter for everything-
          Another fork? more bread? where is the glass of wine we ordered 10 minutes ago?

          In these lean times how can a restaurant have such crappy service, bad food and charge too much-
          This place needs to close down-
          Maybe the tourists keep t in business-

          1. We were seated next to a table of children, with no adult supervision. They occupied two tables near the front of the restaurant. The children were not dining guests. They were coloring and drinking water. I asked for a quiet table when I made the Open Table reservation and the hostess told me the tables in the back of the restaurant did not have servers assigned to them. She refused to seat us at a different table. Her body language said, "Take it or leave it." The restaurant was not busy at 5pm. There were other larger tables in the restaurant, but that is where the hostess sat us. When a guest asks to be seated elsewhere, the hostess needs to be more accommodating. The children moved between the two tables and were quite boisterous. When I ordered an “iced tea,” the server brought me a bottle of Republic of Tea. This is a glass bottle specialty tea, non-réfillable for a bargain price of $5.95. It took the server 5 minutes to deliver our beverages, the iced tea in a bottle and a hot tea. We were hoping to try the Branzino promoted on the festa regionale menu. However, the server said they were out and suggested a salmon. After we had ordered our entrees, I overheard another server in the dining room mention to a table of guests that they offered 2 different fish entrees. However, we were only offered one by our server. The kids were moving around quite a bit and making a lot of noise. Their table was less than 6 inches away from ours. I again asked the hostess to move to a different table after the salad was served. She told me which tables were open and I seated myself this time. I dropped utensils on the floor and moved my drink and food to a table of four far far away from the noisy kids. The server never came to our table to ask why we moved or if she could do anything for us. I overheard an adjacent table of guets order an iced tea, and that server gave them a réfillable generic glass of iced tea, something I would have been perfectly happy to drink. It probably cost less than $5.95. So our server delivered the most expensive iced tea possible and did not care to offer more than one fish entree when I overheard the other server offer 2 fish entrees in lieu of the Branzino on the specials menu. I sat there taking all of this in. After I finished my salad, I asked the server to pack up our entrees and I asked for the check. It took her over 5 minutes to pick up payment. The manager stopped by our table to ask how our dining experience was when he delivered our boxed food. I told him, "I will never return to this restaurant. I made a reservation for a quiet table and I was seated next to children. When I told the hostess I preferred not to sit at that table, she refused to seat me elsewhere." He told me, “When I saw that you moved tables, I assumed that everything was okay.” I told him, “If everything was okay, you wouldn’t be holding my food in a box. I will never come back to this restaurant again.” He gave me his name and told me to give them another chance. He walked away and I never saw him again. No service recovery was provided. Honestly, I don't think he cared. Our business was clearly not appreciated. Service recovery would have been possible if he visited our table before I asked for the check. I paid the bill and left, not soon enough. I will NEVER RETURN TO IL FORNAIO IN PASADENA. If this restaurant entertains non-dining unsupervised children, guests should know what they are in for. It’s like eating at Chuck E Cheese’s.

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            Il Fornaio
            24 W Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103

            3 Replies
            1. re: laconic

              We stopped going to Il Fornaio 7 years ago. It was bad then and it is still bad. Service was non-functional and the food very un-appealing.

              The only thing I like about this location is the little shop next door that sells gelato and bread. This location does a decent latte.

              1. re: senzanome

                Sadly, I have to agree with laconic and senzanome. When we moved into the area, Old Town was lots of fun and Il Fornaio was a breath of fresh air. Great location, better than average food with regular regional Italian menu and wine pairings, solid service and just plain old convenient. But Il Fornaio seems be following the same generally downward trend that most of Old Town's already just-above mediocre restaurants are following. It's really too bad. There are a lot of people with credit cards looking for well priced, GOOD FOOD in Pasadena and the western communities of Alta Dena, La Canada, La Crescenta, etc. For me, hope springs eternal. Someday...

              2. re: laconic

                My partner and I have stopped going to the Pasadena Il Fornaio 9 or so years ago. The dining experience was always awful: they always seem to run out of their specials no matter what time we were there and the service is always non-existent. I've had to wave my big white napkin to flag a server a couple of times. After that, I vowed never to set foot in there again.

                Several years ago, I was at their Carmel-by-the-Sea location and also had the same terrible service. Since I was staying upstairs at the Pine Inn, I wasn't watching my liquor intake and had fun yelling "yooohoooo" and waving my big white napkin to get a server's attention--at that point, I didn't care whose attention I got because none of their damn staff was to be found.

                I concluded that Il Fornaio = no service. Oh, and those hostesses in Pasadena--they always had an attitude that they were hot sh*t. If only they knew that I ranked Il Fornaio as an overpriced Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill.

                In all fairness to Il Fornaio, I stop by the Beverly Hills location once in a while for breakfast when I have shopping to do over in that neighborhood. After all, I have to do something while waiting for LV to open.