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New Italian Restaurant Coming to Ballston

by ARLnow.com October 9, 2012 at 11:00 am 12,461 98 Comments


A new Italian restaurant is coming to Ballston early next year.

Il Forno Restaurant is coming to the ground floor of the Virginia Tech Research Center building at 900 N. Glebe Road, near the Greene Turtle. The restaurant will have 124 seats and a pizza oven that’s being imported from Italy, according to owner Charles Nejat, a sales manager at the nearby Arlington Mercedes-Benz dealership.

Translated from Italian, “Il Forno” means “The Oven.”

Nejat said he’s hoping to open the restaurant as early as January 1.

  • South Side Chris

    I’ll give it a shot.

  • brickwall

    Please please please please be good. Need some better Italian right around Ballston than Pines of Florence, Tutto Bene, and Ruffinos. Was Restuarant Alpine any good? Never went there before it closed.

    • David

      Pupatella is just down Wilson, excellent pizza.

      • Jon B

        And if you like bad locations you’ll love Pupatella.

        • cyclist

          It’s a great location. Right on a bike trail.

        • FrenchyB

          Yet somehow they seem to be thriving in their ‘bad location.’

          • No Pizza For You

            I went to Pupatella a few weeks ago for lunch and they weren’t serving pizza. They said they were trying some new things for lunch. It was ok, but the main reason anyone goes is for the pizza. Hopefully they realize that sooner than later.

      • Mc

        Pupatella is the standard everyone will be judged against. Hope this new restaurant is less pizza and more pasta.

    • Glebe Roader

      Alpine was awful.

    • Mick

      Alpine was good….

      Hheavy traditional Northern Italian fare. Nothing fancy, no now-old nouveau cuisine or today’s Deconstructed dishes popular among those who would rather talk about food, see and be seen and preen than actually sit down to pleasant Italian confort food and eat.

      No wonder it closed.

      • HungryonLee

        ArlNow, any word on Alpine redevelopment? It’s been quiet since the Liberty/Lyon Hall guys bought it. Heard a rumor they were debating whether to renovate or build new. Have you heard anything?

    • YTK

      Pines of Florence? * * sticks finger down throat ** Been there. ONCE was enough

    • Kace

      The Alpine was awesome,real oldfashioned Italian food the way my Nonni made it.Fireplaces in most of the rooms,and a beautiful garden when it was warm outside.No place like it now.

  • Arlington Cat

    will you slide me a slice, bro?

  • derekvt

    Any relation to the Il Forno that’s been in Frederick, MD for almost 20 years? I hope they at least know about the name copy.

    • there’s one in reston too

      • Marie

        I wish is was related to the one in Reston but I don’t think it is. The Reston chain is Il Fornaio, aka “The Baker,” and has great bread and homemade noodles.

    • B Div

      Il Forno is about as generic a name for an Italian restaurant as is possible.

      I hope it’s good. As the Raven quoths below, we could do with a halfway decent Italian in the neighbourhood.

  • Quoth the Raven

    There’s a niche to be filled here – good, simple, Italian food that doesn’t cost a fortune. To me, there isn’t a decent Italian place anywhere in Arlington; you have to go to DC if you want to eat well.

    (Except for pizza, b/c Pupatella is awesome)

    • curious

      where in DC fits that bill?

      • Noisecomplaint

        Filomena’s in Georgetown…fantastic

      • Quoth the Raven

        I like Al Tiramisu in Dupont. Really good little place, with waiters who actually speak Italian. Cool spot.

        And I like Carmine’s too, I have to say. Ridiculously huge portions, but their pasta is pretty tasty.

      • Mick

        La Tomate is quite good. A few blocks n of Dupont Circle, but below the Ruths Chris Steakhouse.

        The lighter side of Italian cuisine. Not cheap, but certainly worth a drive into town, nice outside tables while we still have fall. A bit cramped inside. Very helpful, knowledgeable and pleasant wait staff with no overbearing chuminess.. Last time i was there the waiter paced the dishes very nicely and helped us choose wine, as none of the four was very confident selecting Italian wines.

    • CW

      Seeing as to how this appears to be the side pet project of the sales manager at the Benz dealership, I doubt he’s going for cheap and simple.

    • BarFoodie

      “a pizza oven that’s being imported from Italy” doesn’t sound affordable.

      • drax

        How much better can Italian ovens be? Is there something magical about them that can’t be replicated? Are they even made in Italy?

        • JamesE

          volcanic ash bricks for heat retention (seriously)

          • drax

            Can’t we just import the bricks?

            Don’t we have volcanoes too?

          • Arlingtony

            U.S. volcanoes have long felt they were part of the entitled class (i.e., they’d rather loaf in Hawaii on the government’s dime instead of going to work to produce quality Italian Pizza).

            FYI, Pupatella’s oven is imported from Naples (volacanic ash of Vesuvius) and puts our entitled ovens to shame.

        • Subliminal

          The oven speaks Italian to the pizza as it is baking telling it how good it will be ……

      • Mick

        But like catnip to some, I suspect.

        I’m sure he has done his market research.

    • Arl for Now

      I like Pulcinella on Old Dominion Drive in McLean. It’s pretty good–but you have to drive about 20 minutes from Ballston. Would prefer something closer so will definitely try out Il Forno.

  • Not so fast my friend…

    How about we get an Italian restaurant around here actually owned by an Italian for once? Sorry, but I’ll pass.

    • drax


    • TJLinBallston

      Can’t wait for a real Italian restaurant to open in Ballston! I’m a big fan of Puppatella but can’t easily walk there. (Always park at Safeway) and I’m a big detractor of Tutte Bene — lousy food and service in a dumpy setting.

      • JamesE

        I’m too paranoid to park at the Safeway because I know my car will be gone in 5 minutes even though it never happens.

    • Totally

      You’re so right. When I make Mexican or Indian food at home I’m always like, “man, I really should hire a Mexican or Indian to cook my food.”I don’t know how anyone could make Italian food without being Italian. I’m shocked that anyone besides an Italian person knows how I make Italian food. The insanity!

      • B Div

        Why ever go out to eat?

        It’s exactly the same as you make at home so what’s the point?

        It’s obvious that having an intimate cultural knowledge of a cusiine and owning a cookbook are identical.

        Thanks, real money-saving tip!

        • drax

          ‘Not so fast my friend’ is the kind of guy who goes out for “authentic” ethnic food that isn’t even remotely like the stuff they serve in the country of origin, but who thinks he’s oh so clever for finding the “real” stuff. And he thinks it matters.

          • Not so fast my friend…

            Sure drax…you got me. I like big huge piles of pasta drenched in sugar-laden sauce. I have no idea what decent food is.

            Look, can non-Italians own good Italian restaurants? Sure. A good chef is a good chef, and many can make great food of all types.

            But around here there are very few good Italian restaurants. The vast majority of the decent ones I’ve been to have been Italian-owned, and every single one of the disgusting ones has been owned by a non-Italian. Is it a statistically valid sample? No, but it’s enough for me to know I’ll avoid this place until I hear it’s worth trying.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Have you ever heard of trying it yourself instead of relying on others’ opinions ??

          • Not so fast my friend…

            For being captain of the obvious, you’re sure having trouble with it here.

            Translation: I’ve tried many, enough to know most around here are bad; therefore, I’m not going to waste my time or money until I hear that this may be the very first exception rather than the rule.

            Disclaimer for others who are having trouble with the obvious: My Italian food does not need to be imported from Italy. Some non-Italians make great Italian food. Many Italians make bad Italian food.

          • drax

            “Some non-Italians make great Italian food.”

            You see how your first comment kinda implied otherwise.

          • drax

            “can non-Italians own good Italian restaurants? Sure. A good chef is a good chef, and many can make great food of all types. ”

            There you go.

            “I’ll avoid this place until I hear it’s worth trying.”

            That’s an improvement from your earlier comment.

            I’ll be glad to try this place and let you know what I think.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Oh I got it, “not so fast…” is a follow the leader type…

          • Mick

            To quote Mike Myers’ Dieter, “You grow tiresome.”

          • Il Forno Fan

            If the chef is Italian, what difference does it make what the owner is?

        • Not so fast my friend…

          LOL! +1!

        • drax

          You actually think your restaurant Italian food is made by Italians imported directly from Naples or something?

      • Not so fast my friend…

        Perhaps you’re a great Mexican or Indian food cook, but I’ve been to enough Italian-owned Italian restaurants, as well as Italian restaurants owned by other ethnicities to know that, the vast majority of the time, the Italian-owned places are much better. Think it’s a coincidence that there are zero good Italian places in Arlington (Tutto Bene, Pines of Florence, etc.)? Compare that with any Little Italy, or the North End of Boston, or North Beach in SF, or any area with an appreciable number of Italians. Even the best Italian place I’ve been to around here is, or at least was, Italian-owned (Filomena). Cafe Milano, also Italian owned.

        • Quoth the Raven

          This is interesting. I wonder, though, that the prevalence of good Italian food in locations with lots of Italians says more about what the people want and less about who owns the restaurant.

          • CW

            It probably says more about the power of competition.

        • Lola

          While I agree that the area restaurants you mentioned are terrible, are you serious with Filomena??? It’s terrible!!

          • Quoth the Raven

            I liked Cafe Milano, and I would go back if it were about half as pricey. Food was fine, but not worth what it cost.

      • nom de guerre

        I still like the new Italian concept planned for Clarendon that features “salads in the shape of the tower of Pisa, made with real grilled vegetables.”


        • sunflower

          “real” grilled vegetables–as opposed to?……….

      • JS

        Thats the most ignorant thing i have ever read on this blog…

    • Your Mom & Pop restauranteurs can’t afford the rents in these redevelopments with ground floor retail required by your Arlington Board. Enter chain restaurants.

      • drax

        What was there before? Oh, yeah, a car dealership and an office supply store.

        • Josh S

          I *loved* that Staples. Was so sad to see it go…..

    • Captain_Obvious

      how bout you go to Italy for your Italian food. Go to NY for pizza, go to philly for your cheese-steaks, TX for BBQ…

      • Not so fast my friend…

        I’d love to, if that were physically and financially feasible. In the meantime, I’ll go to restaurants that can approximate those places best.

        • Captain_Obvious

          according to your logic, those places don’t exist.

      • WeiWeiQiang

        Isn’t pizza Italian?

  • Totally


    “…besides an Italian person knows how TO make Italian food”

    • YTK

      Dear Totally — my 100% Italian Mamma SILVANA BURNED everything she cooked. I coulda been 6’2″ like my daddy but no. Mom scorched the spags and the meatballs and we kids HAD TO EAT THAT!!! You know what she would say as she thunked the black-bottomed spags and meatballs into our plates? “Eat this — it’s CHARCOAL — it’ll clean out your systems” No i am not kidding.

  • Drunk_IrishChick

    Bonea for tuna

    • karzai

      the doormen are going to be hot, I promise you.

    • malaka

      I watch Boardwalk Empire too

  • Dirty Mind

    Until I finished reading the article, I was thinking Il Forno meant something else.

    • sunflower

      i know it when i see it…

  • sunflower

    in several italian/greek hybrid restaurants where i’ve eaten, the greek flavors seem to predominate

  • justaguyinnova

    is the greek place by 23rd street in crystal city any good?

    • WeiWeiQiang


      My Greek friends like Mourayo on Conn Ave.

      • malaka

        Αγαπώ τον τόπο

  • Trev

    Imported Garlic as well?

    • JamesE


  • Arlingtony

    FYI, planting your own garlic is easy and it ease our dependence on garlic imported from China (about 70 percent of garlic consumed in the U.S. is from China). See the article on how to plant garlic. I’m about to plant mine this week.


    • OldYeller

      Finally, an easy way to grow your own garlic and at the same time get rid of all that excess fish emulsion and liquid seaweed we all have sitting around.

      • YTK

        OMG– Garlic imported from CHINA? My NONNA is CRYING!!!!

    • drax

      Why should we care about garlic imported from China? Hurts U.S. farmers? Well, so does growing it yourself.

      • Quoth the Raven

        I think we should be aware and in some cases worried about where our food comes from. After all, let’s recall that China has no issue with using lead paint on kids’ toys. What’s being used on the garlic?

        • YTK

          Night Soil?

          • Quoth the Raven

            Who the hell knows? If you put lead paint on toys, who knows what you’re going to put on garlic!

          • drax

            Close. Google “e. coli vegetable recall” And it’s not just China, it’s everywhere, even here.

        • drax

          Okay, that makes sense, except that applies to more than just food from China. American produce can kill you too.


    Actually if you are a true Italian (I was born and raised in a Silcilian family), the Alpine was a s close to authentic old style Italian comfort food as ther was.

    If Fornaio, which means Baker and not Oven as reported in this publication, is a very classy restaurant and the food is exceptional. They have a regional menu which changes every month that hightights different regions of Italy.

    As the Reston Chamber President, I frequent the one in the Reston Town Center quite often and the Roberto, the Chef is from Sicily and creates fabulous dishes. As a frequent Arlington diner, Ballston will be well served by Il Fornaio!

  • sunflower

    it feels like we’re playing the parlor game– Rumor. the restaurant coming to arlington is “il forno” which means “the oven.” the restaurant in reston is “fornaio” which means “baker” as near as i can tell, there’s no connection between them.

  • sunflower


  • lastcall

    It looks like there’s construction happening on the bottom floor of 800 N. Glebe… huge space. Does anyone know who’s going in there?

  • YTK

    OMG!! ABEETZ imported from Italy!??? My NONNA is smiling! The saints are SMILING!!

  • From what I’ve gathered this is gonna be a great place.fresh baked bread daily. Imported pizza oven from Italy for the pizza. Yum yum

  • Evee

    Can’t wait!
    I’m sure this place will be a welcome addition
    To the area.

  • OMG has no one heard of the hard to find Toscana Grill. As Italian as it gets!

  • Kishore

    I am so glad to start working for a great company. I am looking foward to start ASAP

    • Il Forno

      Thanks for your comment. We’ll contact you as soon as we’re ready.

      • arsalan

        Hey there.
        I send a resume like a week ago and I was wondering when does the store open up because I really want to start working.

  • Michael

    I have been looking for a phone number to contact you about applying for a serving position. I have several years experience, and I’m looking for something a little better then where I am now and this seems like a fantastic opportunity.


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