If Corso Ventures isn't one the hottest restaurant development groups in the Columbus area right now, it certainly ranks in the top tier. Their Short North area ventures such as The Short North Pint House (their first) and Standard Hall (their latest to open) are popular destinations to grab brews and food. Down the road, their Food Hall concept, featuring a full bar and four kitchens meant for rotating culinary experiences, is one that we and other area diners are anticipating.
The funny thing is that despite all the good things we have heard about the previously two mentioned eateries, we find ourselves still working through the menu at their second Short North eatery in Forno, and really there's nothing wrong with that.
Opened up in the old Two Fish location, the exterior of Forno is a bit deceiving in that there's a lot more room inside than you might expect. In some ways, Forno is two distinct spaces, with one centered around its mirrored tap area with marbled bar top, and a larger space anchored by its kitchen and a prominent stone-fire oven (perhaps unsurprisingly, Forno translated into English is, indeed, oven.) The action around this eye-catching device has personally proven fun to watch during my visits (the small slab of counter space bordering the kitchen area as you enter the main dining space provides the perfect vantage point.)
I admit our experiences with Forno (which opened its doors in January 2015) have been based on their brunch service, but I imagine the experience translates similarly to their other times of the day. The place gets packed during the typical rush periods (reservations are recommended during those times) but even on these days you can sneak in to relative calm if you come early enough.
The brunch menu mirrors its dinner counterpart in terms of numbers of food options, with several items appearing on both menus. While bargain cocktails like mimosas and a very good Bloody Mary (we ventured off the menu in the picture below for the Pear Necessities featuring the four-peel gin from local distiller Watershed) provide ample adult beverage incentive for the brunch-goers, the dinner menu goes one better during Forno's happy hour from 4-6 PM, which sports half-off a whole bunch o' stuff from craft beer to pizzas to all bar snacks and more.
We've sampled quite a few of the brunch items during our visits, and have fallen in love with their Brunch Brasato. This flavorful combo of tomato-braised beef and egg with Parmesan cheese and rosemary, presented neatly in an mini-iron skillet with dipping bread served on the side, has become an automatic default finalist on any visit.
Another strong contender during any brunch visit lies in the Breakfast Pizza, a perfect example of the charred, bubbly crust pies that Forno's custom oven cranks out on a regular basis. Obviously in this case, this pizza comes with a morning twist off eggs, fontina, roasted garlic, and Brussels Sprouts.
As tempting as those two items are, we have ventured further into the brunch menu and been satisfied with our choices, including the relatively new additions like the Frittata (eggs, fontina, mushrooms goat cheese, red peppers, arugula and asparagus served within that mini-iron skillet) and a good version of Shrimp Polenta, essentially Forno's take on the classic Shrimp and Grits.
I am more than certain that we will venture down and check out Standard Hall and The Pint House one of these days, and most certainly will drop by as soon as their Food Hall gets up and running. But a good thing is a good thing, and we've been more than happy digging deeper into Forno's culinary charms (and still have yet to dive into their dinner and happy hour services.)
If lovin' the oven is wrong, then we don't want to be right.
Forno Kitchen & Bar
721 N High St. (Short North - Google Maps)
Columbus, OH 43215
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