Francesca’s Forno

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  • Pizza
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Photograph: Neil Burger
Franscesca's Forno
Wicker Park
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Order the pizza at Francesca’s Forno, or the gnudi, or the roasted radish salad (this one at your own peril), and the result will be the same: You’ll have your food within ten minutes. That kind of instant gratification is a nice touch at a restaurant if you aren’t hoping for a long evening lingering over slices of finocchiona. And here, you probably aren’t, because to linger at Forno would be akin to doing the waltz at a hoedown. You’d stick out. And you probably wouldn’t have a very good time.

So. Here’s what to fuel up on before you’re out of here and getting on with your night: lamb meatballs. Embrace that they’re more sturdy than tender, and you’ll be happy with them (the lemon on the plate, there to offset the lamb’s richness, helps). Summer corn. It’s an Italian take on elote, the corn rolled in grana Padano and truffle oil, and you won’t miss the mayo. Pizza. The semaforo pie deftly balances sweet-hot banana peppers, bitter rapini and salty olives—not an easy feat. The pomodoro with hen egg and guanciale: When you find a better combination than tomatoes, eggs and pig jowls, call me. Better yet, call Scott Harris, Francesca’s owner—I’m sure he’d love to hear about it.

Francesca’s Forno closed down recently for a renovation of both the space and the menu, but the result is awfully familiar. The room could be exactly the same, honestly. And while the menu exhibits an adventurous spirit here and there (corkscrews of pasta tossed with sliced octopus; that overly earthy roasted radish salad), things here are mostly played safe. And most of the time (exception: the pasty gnudi), Francesca’s is good at safe. Which is why getting the roasted chicken with big, juicy roasted peaches, or the hyperseasoned pork steak with corn-studded polenta, is a good idea. Sticking with any of the (they don’t skimp with the prosciutto), or the fromage, will work. Can you spread it on bread? Order it. Is it a dessert? Avoid it. In short: This is like any other Francesca’s spot. Stick to the program. Don’t stray. Order a bottle of wine. And for God’s sake, stop waltzing.

Venue name: Francesca’s Forno
Address: 1576 N Milwaukee Ave

Cross street: at Damen Ave
Opening hours: Brunch (Sat, Sun), dinner
Transport: El stop: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72.
Price: Average small plate: $8
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