You ever had one of those trips where you feel compelled to go home and look at a map and figure out where in the heck you were? Last week, I had one of those. Since Wednesday is my free day, I took a former boss of mine up on her invitation to take a nice drive way out, and I mean way out, in the country, where she’d moved as part of her “urban evacuation” earlier in the year. I knew that Melissa was a goodly ways north and east of Ball Ground, but when she took the wheel up and over more back roads to go from her house to lunch, whatever navigational skills that I had abandoned me.
After not too long a drive up sparsely populated trails, during which time Melissa told me about an interesting run-in, along a stretch by a weatherbeaten old barn, with a police officer who had asked her whether she had seen three ne’er-do-well hillbillies who were up to some nebulous rottenness… oh, all right, the Pickens County cops were looking for a meth lab. Anyway, we ended up in a small strip mall in the community of Marble Hill near Jasper, punctuated by an IGA grocer that caters to the vacationers at nearby Big Canoe. Alongside the strip is a quite nice little Italian place that recently found new ownership and apparently a very new menu.
This is the first time that I’ve run into this issue doing these writeups. Melissa suggested this restaurant based on the food that they served on her previous visits, but since she last went there, they have revamped almost completely. Previously, Forno served pizza, burgers and hot dogs with a Chicago theme. The original owner, who was from the Windy City, decorated the interior with pictures of area landmarks and street signs, along with an amusing poster explaining the various components of the famous Chicago dog. If you’ve been to the wonderful Bobby G’s in Alpharetta, you have a general idea of what I mean, although Forno is not quite so densely decorated.
The new owner has dispensed with the old menu, although the Illinois decor remains for now. He’s spruced the place up a little, and is trying to turn it into an upscale Italian-styled destination, with higher-end entrees. I’m not certain how easily such a conversion can be managed with the TVs in each booth to watch the game of your choice still reflecting the previous sports bar feel, but that’s the goal.
It’s really not fair to judge a place based on the quality of its buffet, but I’ll plead poverty. Expecting a burger and the attendant cost, I was a hair sticker shocked at a menu full of $15-16 entrees, and so Melissa and I just had the pasta buffet. The salad was not bad, although Melissa correctly observed that most of the available ingredients also made for good pizza toppings, and the pastas, which included ziti with sausage in a red sauce and ziti with chicken in a cream sauce with vegetables, were acceptable and tasty if not outstanding, and the service was just fine.
I do have to confess a little skepticism about Forno’s long-term prospects. As always, I wish restaurant owners all the best luck and success in the world, but their menu does seem awfully high priced for being out in the middle of nowhere. Of course, looking at it on the map, it’s really closer to State Route 515, and the Atlanta-to-Ellijay traffic, than I would have thought, but most of its potential customers certainly live in the back of beyond. It looks like this is a place that’s going to have to work very hard to convert lots of locals into regulars to stick around. My fingers are crossed for them!
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