Dining Guide to Local Austin Restaurants
DINING PICK: DUE FORNI
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Except when something sneaks out—like Due Forni. This Sin City eatery decided to roll the dice and open an outpost in Austin, in December, much to our good fortune.
Located in the Littlefield Building’s long-vacant Louie’s 106 site, Due Forni combines Las Vegas sizzle with a menu rooted in authentic Italian flavors. Sleek and stylish, the interior resembles chic Milan more than rustic Tuscany. Translucent tangerine tabletops pop beside industrial metal chairs. Vintage Spaghetti Westerns are projected on soaring walls, their muted sound tracks replaced by eclectic Italian jazz.
Due Forni’s menu is grounded in Italian classics that have been interpreted with updated executions. The restaurant’s menu is devoted to its namesake twin ovens (due forni means “two ovens” in Italian). Each behemoth cooks at a different temperature, thus cooking some items slowly and others quickly, at a much higher heat. Roman-style pizzas cooked in one oven offer a crispy, cracker-like crust, while Neapolitan-style pies from the other have a softer chew. Both versions are tasty, but we especially enjoyed the classic Margherita from the latter, topped with creamy imported bufala mozzarella made from Italian water buffalo milk.
Due Forni may have gained fame in Vegas for its pizza, but to overlook the rest of its extensive Italian bounty would be a shame. I can’t stop thinking about its semolina gnocchi: small, al dente morsels tossed with smoked bacon, peas, and black truffle cream. A delicious pasta special one night was a comforting classic of red sauce with house-made sausage. There are also oven-roasted entrées like game hen, whole branzino sea bass, and a succulent filet, roasted to perfection and served with roasted potatoes drizzled with a hint of truffle oil.
For starters, don’t miss the Chef’s Platter. Due Forni has taken this menu cliché to new heights with expertly sliced meats and cheeses, plus olives, peppers, and outstanding homemade bread. The Caesar salad is simple, bright, and crisp. Less successful was the carpaccio, rolled sushi-style and overwhelmed by black truffle vinaigrette. The Casatica, a pool of pleasantly creamy mascarpone polenta, was topped with flabby speck bacon.
Things bounced back with dessert. Don’t miss the beautifully simple Sweet Bufala Ricotta drizzled with local Round Rock honey and topped with toasted pistachios. It’s creamy, crunchy, and not too sweet.
If you’re into Italian wine, you’ll have a ball sipping your way through Due Forni’s well-curated list. All selections are sold by the glass or bottle, including gems like a 2011 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe nebbiolo. After dinner, there’s homemade Limoncello made with Meyer lemons.
The founders of the original Vegas Due Forni divide their time between their flagship restaurant and their new location. Operating partner Alex Taylor has Austin roots and graduated from UT. Chef-partner Carlos Buscaglia was born to Italian parents and has cooked in some of the top kitchens in New York and Las Vegas. They’re having some fun at Due Forni, but they’re also delivering some serious and satisfying food.
Photography by Bill Sallans