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Walnut Creek Magazine

Walnut Creek Fave Il Fornaio Opens in Santa Clara

Jan 22, 2017 07:57PM ● By Fran Miller
Chef Leslie Pineda

Fans of Il Fornaio Walnut Creek might recognize a familiar face at the restaurant’s new Santa Clara outpost. Leslie Pineda, a former chef at Walnut Creek’s favorite classic Italian eatery, is now the head chef at the group’s 23rd location. She is the first female head chef in Il Fornaio’s 30-year history.

“It’s an honor to grow alongside Il Fornaio as the first female chef in company history,” says Pineda, an East Bay native and graduate of the California Culinary Academy. “My philosophy has always been to cook from the heart, and in this, Il Fornaio has always supported me.”

Prior to joining the Il Fornaio group, Pineda was an executive chef for Francis Ford Coppola at Café Niebaum-Coppola in Palo Alto, and at Rustic, his Napa restaurant.

Il Fornaio Santa Clara opened in November in Santa Clara Square, a mixed-use location featuring restaurants, shopping, office space, and apartments. The 180-seat, 6,200 square foot modern space is expansive and airy, with a rustic Tuscan farmhouse aesthetic. An open kitchen features a focal point 750-degree pizza oven that cooks perfectly blistered pizzas in a minute and a half. Wines (1,200 bottles from around the world) are stored from floor to ceiling along a glass-enclosed wall that is accessed by a rolling library ladder. A central backlit bar with two television screens is sure to become a favored hangout for the locals. Dramatic light fixtures, white marble counters, and the use of cool iron and warm wood create a space that’s apropos for either a special night out or a casual weeknight dinner.



And for either, guests will continue to find their favorite signature Il Fornaio dishes such as Tagliatelle Bolognese, Neopolitan style pizza Margherita, and Filetto - grilled Piedmontese beef tenderloin with balsamic vinegar and green peppercorn sauce – all expertly prepared in the authentic Italian tradition with the freshest ingredients. An Il Fornaio menu is always varied, with multiple options – and the quality and consistency within each of the group’s restaurants is superb – thanks in great part to the artistry and precision of Executive Chef Maurizio Mazzon who oversees all 23 Il Fornaio kitchens using recipes and preparations mastered through the centuries. 

But in Santa Clara, it’s Chef Pineda’s show now, and she’s ready to cook for you. Enjoy antipasti like Calamaretti – deep fried baby squid with spicy marinara, or pasta dishes like Capellini – angel hair pasta, tomatoes, garlic, marinara, and fresh basil. House specialties include Pollo Toscano (pictured above) – free-range rotisserie chicken with seasonal roasted veggies and mashed potatoes, or Agnello – lamb shank, lemon, spring onions, mashed potatoes, and organic spinach. And don’t forget to save room for delicious house made desserts like Tiramisu, Affogato, and Soffiato al Cioccolato.

P.S. Like other Il Fornaio locations, Santa Clara will feature Festa Regionale, a monthly celebration of Italy’s varied regional cuisines.

P.P.S. Il Fornaio Santa Clara is a perfect spot for pre or post Levi's Stadium events!

Il Fornaio Santa Clara: 2752 Augustine Dr., Santa Clara

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