Dining Out: Fusion, Mediterranean-style, at Il Forno Di Marco

August 19, 2013 Helen Klein
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Craving mideastern food but your kids are fixated on pizza or pasta?

Once upon a time, that was a dine-out dilemma that would be resolved one of two ways – either sitting at a table and trying to enjoy hummus and babaghanoush while your kids whine, or heading out for a pizza party for the whole family.

Now, however, both children and grownups can be satisfied, at the two-and-a-half-month-old Il Forno di Marco, on Third Avenue at 76th Street.

With a Lebanese mamma sharing the kitchen with an Italian chef, the restaurant turns out top-notch foods from both cuisines – the avowed goal of restaurateur Abraham Fallah, who devised the restaurant so he and his kids would both enjoy the dining experience. And it’s Fallah’s mother, Marie – whose modesty belies her culinary expertise – who cooks the Lebanese specialties to perfection, ably aided by sous-chef Issan Jaber.

“Ninety percent of the people who come in mix and match,” noted Fallah, stressing, “People love that they can come in and eat Lebanese and Italian food in the same place. Nobody has that in Brooklyn or Manhattan.”

Fallah himself is a passionate cook who said he handles the kitchen at night when his mom is off work. “I have been cooking at her side since I was a kid,” he recalled.

The passion shows in every bite. The Lebanese food is exuberant and vibrant, with the fresh, immediate flavors of lemon and herbs singing of the sun-kissed shores of the Mediterranean.

I sampled the Chef’s Mixed Mezza platter comprised of tabouli, hummus, babaghanoush, vegetarian stuffed grape leaves and falafel ($11). It’s a delightful appetizer to be shared by everyone at the table but also functions perfectly as a main dish, with an enticing contrast of textures and flavors, hot and cold.

I particularly enjoyed the smoky flavor of the babaghanoush, mashed grilled eggplant, as well as the toothsome stuffed grape leaves rolled around a filling that combined chickpeas and rice with tart lemon juice to bind the flavors together.

The falafels, which are shaped like doughnuts with holes in the middle, were crisp on the outside, meaty on the inside, and heavenly dipped in tahini dressing. Tabbouli – chewy grains of bulgur wheat with tomatoes and herbs in a citrusy dressing – is one of my all-time favorite dishes, and Il Forno di Marco’s version did not disappoint. Finally, the hummus was creamy and nutty, spiked with lemon juice – exactly the way hummus should be made. And, I scooped it up with Il Forno di Marco’s homemade pita bread, which came out of the kitchen dramatically puffed up.

As a main dish, I sampled the Chicken Shish Kebab ($15), grilled cubes of chicken atop rice with tomatoes and red onion to the side, served with a creamy garlic sauce that was a divine accompaniment. The chicken was permeated with the flavor of the lemon marinade; no wonder, as Fallah says all the meats served at the eatery are marinated for a minimum of two days to allow the flavor to penetrate.

It would have been unfair to visit the restaurant and not try the Italian specialties. To that end, I enjoyed a plate of Rigatoni with Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil ($12.50), al dente pasta elegantly cloaked in a light tomato sauce studded with shreds of fresh basil, slices of sautéed garlic and chunks of mozzarella.

For dessert, I returned to Lebanon and savored Kunefe ($7), a honey-drenched confection consisting of shredded dough atop a dense layer of sweet cheese, with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios on top. The Kunefe is made to order and is well worth the 15-minute wait while it is finished.

Wine and beer are available at the restaurant. Besides lunch and dinner, Il Forno di Marco also serves breakfast.

It was, indeed, the perfect finale to a lovely meal. Whether it’s Italian food or Lebanese food that I crave, I will be back.


7604 Third Avenue

Brooklyn NY 11209



Sunday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Free delivery with $10 minimum, between 65th and 100th Streets, from Seventh Avenue to Shore Road

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