Top San Antonio chef's neighborhood pizza joint is right at home in Southtown
It might be the pedigree. After all, Restaurant Gwendolyn has brought to the forefront the mission to prepare upscale meals without motorized machinery and utilizing locally sourced ingredients. And executive chef Jason Garcia was executive chef at places such as Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, Ocho at Hotel Havana, Ciao Lavanderia, and Restaurant Gwendolyn.
It might be because it’s the new kid on the block. Whatever the case, Il Forno has already made an impact. “A month into opening, we were already seeing repeat customers,” said Garcia.
One thing that clearly holds foodies' attention is the brick oven that Sohocki built by hand. He kept social media followers posted on the progress of putting things together in the new restaurant, which in Italian means “the oven.”
The oven, being the centerpiece of Il Forno, pays homage to the practice of small Italian villages where people would gather ingredients then go to a communal oven to prepare a meal. There’s also a more contemporary explanation at Il Forno. Buying a brick oven, like many pizzerias do, can cost between $12,000-$14,000 on average.
“[Sohocki] felt he could build it to make it more cost-effective and have it be a focal point in the restaurant,” Garcia said. “It adds organic-ness. It is a neighborhood restaurant.”
Now, how about that pizza? It can be life-changing, as Naples-style pizzas are often found to be. Il Forno cures its meats, such as coppa, prosciutto, and pepperoni, in house. Sohocki is consistent with the practice of locally sourcing ingredients by using homemade cheeses and sauces and vegetables purchased from local farmers.
The lineup of personal pizzas at includes The Copa, which has pomodoro, house ricotta, house copa, kalamata olives, and roasted onions, and The Verdura, with pomodoro, mozzarella, and farmers market vegetables. You can top any pizza with an optional farm-fresh egg.
Then there’s the pizza pops. Yes, as in pizza popsicles. The dessert began as a fun experiment of sorts as Il Forno took part in Culinaria Restaurant Week.
Garcia’s latest pizza popsicle is made with sweet and savory tomato jam and sweetened mozzarella curd whey. He does plan to make an array of pops over the coming months. Because, as we know, summer doesn’t really end in San Antonio until about November.
“It was for the fun of it. We were just looking for fun, new ways to be creative with ingredients,” said Garcia. “[Sohocki] lets us do what I think works and what has worked.”
Il Forno is on its way to making its mark in the South Flores, or SoFlo, community. It is a neighborhood pizzeria, so the ambiance is casual and easygoing. The interior is compact yet cozy, conveying a rustic atmosphere, even using recycled wooden furniture. Outdoor seating is also available.
“Italian isn’t fussy. It’s supposed to be fun, and enjoyed with friends and family,” said Garcia.