By: Stevette Ballog
When driving around on the hunt for good eats, Coral Springs usually leaves me saying, “Oh, look. Another pizza place.”
In a city with no shortage of Italian joints, how does one stand out over the others?
Is it superb service? Great food? A swanky ambience? What draws you in to your favorite place?
For me, it’s about authenticity and passion. I’m not into the generic Americanized variations of this cuisine. When I heard about the opening of Il Faro Pizzeria, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The restaurant, located on Riverside Drive next to the Coral Square Stadium 8 movie theater, is in a plaza that is not exactly a bastion of great dining. Other than a few visits to the neighboring Outback Steakhouse, nothing has ever lured me in…until now.
This modest place is not much to look at from the outside, but don’t let that fool you. The moment you open the door, your nose gets smacked with a luscious whiff of garlic. Then, your eyes get a glance of the hard work and dedication that practically drips from the owner’s brow. A bright and cheery interior with white-washed tables and chairs, reclaimed wood and wine cork décor give the place a simplistic flair. With a menu that pays homage to owner and chef Marco Baruffaldi’s hometown, Il Faro Pizzeria has all the trappings of a true classic and there is nothing simple about what comes out of his kitchen.
What’s the difference between the peanut butter and jelly your mom made you as a child and one you got from school?
Mom made it with love.
You could taste the love in her sandwich. Sure, her peanut butter to jelly ratio may have been different as well, but the biggest thing that stands out to me is the love that momma put into it. You could literally taste it. That same flavor – the flavor of love, comes served with every dish here. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine that there’s a little Italian momma in the kitchen.
My meal began with the Gran Tagliere – a selection of cheeses and charcuterie with freshly baked bread. Imported Prosciutto of Parma and Mortadella sliced so perfectly thin that they literally melted in my mouth and were accompanied by salty chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, and some of the creamiest gorgonzola I’ve ever had. I developed a serious crush on that imported mortadella, and with a few sips of my prosecco in-between bites, I was in heaven.
Chef Baruffaldi is from Modena which is near Bologna, the birthplace of tortellini, so ordering his take on the dish was a no-brainer. A sauté pan full of homemade meat-filled tortellini was placed in front of me. A creamy sauce was poured over the navel-shaped pasta table-side and once it was tossed around in the pan, the essence of cheese hit my nose sending my taste buds into high gear. After one bite, I could see myself becoming a loyalist at this little hidden gem. These chubby stuffed tortellini were loaded with pork loin, prosciutto, mortadella, nutmeg and Parmigiana and napped in a crave-worthy lathering of Parmigiano cream. When asked if I wanted more of that crusty homemade bread, “Hell yes” is what came to mind. Hey, I needed something to sop up that sumptuous sauce.
For my entrée, I chose one of Il Faro’s signature dishes – the Brasato di Manzo. Two thick slices of slow cooked beef resting atop sautéed spinach that tasted like garlic, olive oil and a hint of lemon were served in a sauté pan swimming in a puddle of red wine sauce and a bit of melted butter. The lemony spinach brightened the toothsome beef and within a few bites, I decided that this was like a comforting Italian pot roast on steroids.
After learning that practically everything in this place (including some of the staff) is imported from Italy, I had to try a few more things. I opted for the Italiana pizza which is topped with a tomato sauce, Parma ham, cherry tomatoes, arugula and buffalo mozzarella. The pizza’s thin crust was light and just crispy enough to hold the fresh sauce and well paired toppings.
My next victim was one of the night’s specials. I am a sucker for rice balls, and as soon as I read arancini I had to have it. My server Lucia, also from the Bologna area, delivered this league ball sized golden orb and told me that back home this dish is called the “bomb.” Stuffed with a Bolognese sauce, cheese and peas – this appetizer was packed with flavors that exploded in my mouth – a bomb, indeed.
Lastly, and with no room to even drink my water, Chef Baruffaldi brought me two of his favorite desserts. First, a mason jar filled with a velvety whole-milk panna cotta that was trimmed with a macerated strawberry sauce hit the table. This was a nice and surprisingly light finish to my meal. I ended my calorie-filled dinner with Marco’s take on the classic crème brulee. The Crema Catalina was served in a crock and delicately torched table-side. The sugar cap was nestled atop yet another blast of flavor. I might even go as far as listing this as one of the top three crème brulees in town.
We all know that this location has always struggled to hit full stride and despite the plethora of Italian eateries in town, I assure you that Il Faro, “the lighthouse” shines brighter than any of its predecessors. Thanks to Marco Baruffaldi, it looks like this location’s path to restaurant stardom can finally be climbed. Head in and give this place a try. Be sure to tell Marco that Stevette from Fork Notes and Coral Springs Talk sent you and let us know what you think.
760 Riverside Dr.
Coral Springs, FL 33071
Tue-Sat 11:30 am – 3:00 pm
Tue-Thu 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Fri-Sat 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Sun 12:00 am – 9:30 pm