Il Forno’s $6 Take Out Special is Carbtacular!


A few weeks ago I couldn’t help but notice profiled L.A. lunch’er Himanshu’s go-to lunch recommendation in Santa Monica.  Usually a go-to lunch is the place you hit up when you’re feeling lazy and unadventurous- but this one stood out as a tiny bit awesome:  “Lunch specials at Il Forno (2901 Ocean Park Blvd) $6 for pasta + excellent bread”.  $6?  And you get “excellent bread”?   How could I not?


Il Forno is probably not a place that summons excitement in anybody’s gut, and yet during weekday lunch service the place is packed with surrounding Santa Monica East office workers, chewing away at their boring looking $14 plates of pasta.  Not a place you would normally find me, but every weekday from 11:30 to 3pm they offer a menu of “power meals” for pick up only.  $6 gets you one of 9 pastas or 5 salads and (the best part) their homemade bread.  There are also 4 pizzas for $6-7.  Paying $6 for something that costs $13 in the restaurant had me thinking the portions would be really small on these lunch specials, but surprisingly they were the exact opposite.


Check out this penne arrabbiata, which is pretty much the simplest dish they offer. Nothing spectacular, but the sauce was tasty and had a nice little kick. And most shockingly the pasta wasn’t overcooked, making the $6 price tag kind of amazing. Next time, though, I might splurge for the parmesan. They’ll grate some on top for an extra $1.


And, as promised, the bread was warm and fresh and makes you feel that much better about the deal.


They’ll also add chicken to any pasta for $3 so we tried out the penne alfredo con broccoli (with chicken… becasue, quite frankly, how can you have this dish without chicken?) $9 is a little bit more of an investment, and it’s not even close to being the best ever (not by a longshot). But it was good enough, and completely satisfying.  I’d eat it again.


The only real disappointment was the “margherita” pizza, which seemed like the free bread topped with sauce and cheese. It didn’t taste bad (after all the bread is great) but it reminded me more of a pizza hut personal pan pizza than a good margherita. I’ve heard the $7 BBQ chicken pizza is good, and not all puffy like this one… but didn’t confirm it for myself. (There’s only so much one man can do in a single lunch!)

The deal is take out only, and cash only (tax is included, so it’s literally just $6), but they cook the food to order (another surprise!) so it takes a little while. Call your order in ahead if you can. Not the best Italian food of all time, but it might be the best $6 Italian food of all time (in this country anyway). And the best part is you can point and laugh at all the suckers eating in the restaurant who paid twice as much for the same food. And in a lot of ways that’s what Midtown Lunch is all about. Laughing at dummies who pay too much for mediocre lunch.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • A hot Italian lunch with great bread for $6?  It doesn’t get better than this!
  • The bread is great, and comes with every lunch special
  • I can’t believe they don’t overcook the pasta.  These guys know what their doing.
  • I love Pizza Hut’s personal pan pizzas!
  • I’m running a marathon tomorrow.  This is the perfect lunch!

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Carbs much?
  • $3 to add chicken and $1 for grated parmesan make it not as good a deal
  • It’s still mediocre Italian food… I don’t care how cheap it is.
  • I like my pizza a bit thinner
  • Sorry, but that’s not a margherita pizza.  Where’s the basil?

Il Forno, 2901 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, 310-450-1241


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