Il Fornaio Woodland Hills beckons Italian food lovers all through the month of July with its inspired Festa Regionale menu.

When one thinks of Italy or points the nation out on a map, the most instantly recognizable feature of its geographical topography is the iconic boot-shaped land mass, and the isle of Sicily that looks as if it’s being kicked. The sun-bleached “heel” of that “boot” is Italy’s Puglia ascendant region, a place where savvy travelers overwhelmed by the crowds of Campania and Tuscany escape for something a bit less hectic and manicured. The top of the proverbial list for prospective newcomers is the cuisine – Puglia’s cucina povera is about as earthy as Italian food gets short of eating it right out of the soil.

Il Fornaio, representing a slew of authentic Italian eateries throughout California, Colorado, Virginia, Washington and Nevada, has tapped into the magic and delightful mystery of Puglia-inspired cuisine with its Festa Regionale menu for the month of July. For the Il Fornaio Woodland Hills location and General Manager Joel Barajas, the “Taste of Puglia” menu is a vivid testament to all the passion that goes into regional dishes hailing from this area of Italy.

“For millennia, Puglia has been predominantly an agricultural region, producing around 40-percent of Italy’s olive oil and a large proportion of its wine,” says Barajas. “This essentially agricultural nature means that the region’s cuisine can be defined as ‘home-country inspired,’ mainly using the abundant local produce such as tomatoes, durum wheat, fava beans, artichokes, rocket, courgettes, beans, fennel, peppers, onions, beef and lamb. Puglia’s comforting country cuisine may not be as instantly recognizable as that of some other Italian regions, but it is chock full of goodness and authenticity, remaining thoroughly local and presenting a pure expression of popular traditions and the natural bounty of the land. This is what our chefs attempt to bring to the forefront when preparing dishes from our Festa Regionale menu.”

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Zuppe E Antipasti

Il Fornaio Woodland Hills’ Taste of Puglia menu starts with a selection of delectable appetizers – or “Zuppe E Antipasti” – including Zuppa di Piselli e Taralli (pureed pea, leek and potato soup with mint), Burrata con Pesto d’Olive di Cerignola (Burrata cheese on a bed of roasted bell peppers with arugula and Cerignola olive “pestate”), Insalata del Tavoliere and Zucchine alla Parmigiana (thinly-sliced lightly-fried zucchini layered with mozzarella, tomato sauce, Grana Padano and basil).

Risotto del Gargano

Pasta dishes include Penne al Forno (pasta tubes with meatballs, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella), Spaghetti alla Tarantina (spaghetti with shrimp, scallops, baby octopus, cherry tomatoes, capers and oregano) and Risotto del Gargano (imported carnaroli rice with scallops, shrimp, arugula, tomatoes, garlic and pepperoncino). Entrée selections range from the Petto di Pollo ai Carciofi (boneless free-range chicken breast sautéed with fresh-sliced artichokes, cherry tomatoes, Trebbiano wine, garlic, butter lemon and fresh mint) and Merluzzo alla Barese (wild black cod fillet roasted with grilled zucchini, sundried tomatoes, potatoes, olives and herbs) to Filetto d’Agnello (marinated lamb tenderloin wrapped in pancetta, sliced and sautéed with artichokes). A Torta di Ricotta Mandorle e Amarene (baked ricotta-almond cake) is the dessert selection that finishes off the incredible Taste of Puglia menu.

Petto di Pollo ai Carciofi

Patrons can select one item per course from the menu for $31.95, with a Wine Flight addition including choice of any three half-glasses of select wines available for $14.95.

Il Fornaio chef Giuseppe DiMola, a native of the Puglia region, recalls fond memories of a childhood spent in Puglia, as well as a passion for cooking – all of which served as inspiration for this menu. “Even after more than 30 years of experience in the kitchen, I never forgot my initial inspiration for becoming a chef,” he says. “Many of the dishes on the Festa Regionale – Puglia menu were inspired by long-held traditional family recipes; indeed, I can recall my grandmother, her recipes and growing up in Puglia when we created this menu, remembering how she would utilize all of the fresh ingredients in our town: seafood caught in the morning, grapes and olives picked that day and beans, tomatoes and vegetables my mother would select from the local market.

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Giuseppe DiMola

“I’ve incorporated a few of my ‘family secrets,’ so Il Fornaio customers can enjoy cuisine much more similar to the food I grew up with than typically found in United States-based Italian restaurants. From Puglia to Il Fornaio, Italian dining doesn’t get more authentic than this.”

Il Fornaio Woodland Hills is located at 6320 Topanga Canyon Boulevard and is open from Sunday through Thursday 11 am to 10 pm and Friday through Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm. For more information visit www.IlFornaio/ or email