Thursday, May 2, 2019

Al Forno Putney, a Delicious Italian Food Hideaway in Southwest London

Time and again I've passed Al Forno Putney in a car on my way to or from somewhere out of town and it's taken me years to finally make time to get there. It's not too far from where I live - it takes maybe 10 minutes to walk there, but it's far enough out of the way that I never pass it in my day-to-day life so I often forget about it. It was only when some friends said they had a wonderful lunch there a few months ago that I made it a point to plan a lunch at Al Forno and I'm so glad I did. This little hidden gem is the local Italian restaurant I've been looking for since my favourite closed a couple of years ago. FYI - this post is not at all sponsored.

Al Forno Putney Interiors

Al Forno looks super rustic from the outside. It resembles a cabin style fondue joint in the Alps much more than an Italian restaurant, but don't be fooled. Once you walk inside, it's clear that this is a traditional Italian eatery that's been around for a good few years. The walls are lined with various antique cooking tools, bags of pasta and various artworks, letters and post cards. There are a few murals painted on the walls and a couple of spots are covered in autographs, of whom I don't know. I even spied a tambourine hanging up and some colourful lights hanging from the ceiling, which makes me think this charming eatery could get exciting if you visited on the right evening or hosted an event there. 

Al Forno Putney

Al Forno is on Upper Richmond Road, just between Putney and Barnes in a little shopping centre across from Gypsy Lane that seems to appear out of nowhere. Also in the shopping centre is Snoggy's, a South African butcher shop that sells lots of sweets, meats and of course billtong as well as a Boot's pharmacy and some other little businesses. It's far off the beaten path for Putney residents, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's not very good... This place is serving up some delicious Italian food in an atmosphere that's so incredibly homey.

Casserecce Salsiccia at Al Forno Putney

I was greeted by a waitress, only after the chef charmingly yelled "customer" as he peered out over the counter from his perch near the pizza oven. It reminded me of being in a diner back home in the U.S. She offered me a seat anywhere I wanted and I chose the window. She clearly wasn't in a hurry and to be honest, that was fine with me. If you're looking for fast service and a London pace, this probably isn't the restaurant for you. That said, Al Forno and its staff are so full of personality that you're cheating yourself if you don't make some time to take it all in.

I ordered a Diet Coke, but the menu has so many drink options available whether you prefer something alcoholic or a soft drink. The wine list looks pretty good and I look forward to going back to try a glass or three. The waitress brought the drink and then disappeared for a little while, leaving me to take in all the odds & ends hanging from the walls.

Garlic Pizza Bread With Cheese

I wanted to try a couple of different things so I ordered the garlic pizza bread with mozzarella cheese and the Casarrecce Salsiccia. I could've ordered them as a starter and then 2nd course, but I said to bring them all at once. I'm not too proud to sit alone at a table full of carbs on a Friday afternoon. The food arrived quite quickly and I was offered the traditional parmesan cheese and black pepper.

The garlic pizza bread with mozarella was insanely good. Just enough garlic, the perfect amount of melty cheese and the crust was just crisp enough. It was delicious and I've been craving it ever since I had it... I ate almost the whole thing myself, willing my stomach to grow so I could have one more bite - it was that good. I can't wait to go back and have this dish again... It's simple, but perfectly executed and really that's my favourite kind of food.

Pasta with Sausage

The pasta dish was a lot more complicated. The cassarecce, a sort of twisted tube pasta shape (one of my favourites) was cooked to an absolutely perfect al dente. The sauce was so tasty with Italian sausage, tomatoes, basil, fresh parsley and bursts of fennel seed flavour. It hit all the right notes and coated the pasta perfectly. It was made better only with the addition of a sprinkle of salty parmesan cheese. I can't wait to go back and try so many of the other pastas on the menu as well as the pizza. My mouth is watering just writing about it!

Double Espresso

I concluded my lunch with a double espresso which was great - not at all fussy in terms of presentation, but strong and flavourful as you'd expect from an Italian restaurant. I didn't have any room for dessert, but the menu has tempted me for future. All the Italian desserts you'd expect, some with little British influences and my personal favourite, Italian ice cream. Next time I'm definitely saving some space for the sweeter menu options. When the bill came I couldn't have been more pleased... All that for just about £25 or thereabouts and the quality of the food was exceptional. I'll definitely be going back to Al Forno more often for lunches and dinners.

Al Forno is located just on the edge of Putney, so if you're local to this area, you can of course walk there easily or take the 337 or 430 busses. If you're coming from further afield, your best bet if you're not driving is to get a train to Barnes train station and walk. You can also walk from Putney train station if you're so inclined and it's just a little bit further. Alternatively you can take the District Line tube to East Putney and walk or get the bus from there. It's a lovely walk from Putney and I wouldn't let that put you off... It helps work off the pasta too!

For more information or to make a reservation, visit

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