As far as wood-fired food goes, pizza is the tip of the iceberg at Il Falò, an upscale Italian eatery that opened last week at the Westin hotel in Raleigh’s Brier Creek neighborhood.
Nearly every dish on Il Falò’s dinner menu, designed by James Beard award-winning chef Bradford Thompson, contains an element of wood-fired blister, crisp, or char. Secondi courses (half chickens, strip steaks, halibut) are given the full inferno treatment, as are vegetable sides like cauliflower and romanesco.
The three antipasti on the menu—arancini, Tuscan white bean hummus, and shaved-to-order Italian salumi with cheese—come paired with wood-grilled vehicles (crostini) or garnishes (sweet peppers).
Even some cocktail ingredients, like carrots, get a taste of the flame. (The carrots are juiced post-char, in case you’re picturing, as I momentarily did, a whole carrot standing upright in an old-fashioned, like a buoy in a bourbon bay.)
Il Falò’s pizzas are light on toppings, as is tradition with Italian wood-fired pies, which have thin, leopard-spotted crusts that are as much a part of the experience as the dollops of black truffle pesto they accommodate.
Wood-fired cooking methods, which deepen flavor and refine texture, can be difficult to build entire menus around, especially for a large restaurant like the 5,000-square-foot Il Falò. Pizza ovens in particular are temperamental and limited in space, rapidly losing heat when overloaded.
Il Falò’s kitchen, though, has two wood-burning apparatuses: a stone hearth pizza oven as well as a newfangled system called the “Grillworks Infierno.” How much good would two wood fires do if Il Falò didn’t chiefly serve wood-fired food?
Il Falò is currently open for dinner and breakfast seven days a week. The breakfast menu, also created by Thompson, is served buffet-style and includes a fire-roasted mushroom frittata as well as regular stuff like waffles.
In the future, the restaurant plans to open for lunch and weekend brunch hours, including a Mother’s Day brunch on May 14.
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