If you are missing Sunday dinners at Nonna's house, or just want to eat authentic Italian food, in Alamo is for you.
Tucked into a shopping center next to CVS Pharmacy on Danville Boulevard in Alamo, the restaurant has been a local favorite for fine Italian cuisine since the early 1980s.
Russ Belleci, who owns Forli along with business partner Gabriele Davanzante, intends to keep it that way for years to come.
Davanzante, the restaurant’s fourth owner, bought Forli in 2006 with his wife, Amy. Former marketing professional (and Forli regular) Belleci joined them in ownership soon after.
Both of the men know a thing or two about Italian food—Davanzante is a native of Puglia, Italy, and Belleci, a Pittsburg native and 25-year Alamo resident, has Sicilian heritage.
Belleci said while Forli has always been popular (a wall of fame displays autographed photos of celebrities who dined there), he and Davanzante worked to breathe new life into the business.
Their backgrounds have armed them with the knowledge to succeed.
Davanzante is a long-time restaurateur and Belleci said he dined extensively in restaurants worldwide as a marketing professional. That gave him the opportunity to take notes on what works and what doesn’t.
“We infused our passion with the kitchen staff and the service,” Belleci said.
This infusion included shaking up the menu a bit, such as with specials that reflect the owners’ Southern Italian heritage (Belleci’s marinated cracked crab and Fish Cioppino are big hits).
Other menu favorites include osso bucco, braised lamb shank, filet of sole and pastas.
The restaurant’s warm, cozy décor, which includes murals depicting scenes from Italy, has remained intact.
The lounge fills up on weekend nights and features music on Friday and Saturday nights and occasionally on Sundays and Thursdays.
Belleci said it isn’t just the food that makes Forli special—it’s the welcoming vibe that makes each customer feel like he or she is part of the Forli family.
Forli employees love to laugh, tell jokes in Italian and even join customers at their tables by the end of the night, Belleci said. And his daughter, Andrea, is the restaurant’s manager, making Forli a true family-run business.
“Our customers are people who love Italy, or are second and third generation Italians who miss Sunday dinner at their grandmother’s house,” Belleci said. “It’s an authentic, family-owned Italian trattoria. You can go have a good Italian meal at other restaurants, but part of our ambiance is feeling like you’re at Nonna’s with the whole family.”
Belleci’s marketing background has been useful when it comes to getting the word out about the restaurant.
He rarely runs print advertising and says word of mouth has been his best tool. He also sends out e-newsletters announcing special events and menu specials.
Family events take place regularly at Forli for occasions from rehearsal dinners to memorial luncheons. Belleci said one customer once had the entire restaurant adorned for his wife’s 50th birthday party.
Forli also offers off-site catering and regularly hosts wine dinners. The next wine dinner will be on March 7 and will feature wines from the Vignamaggio winery in Italy’s Chianti region. Tickets are available for $65 by calling the restaurant.
Belleci adds that Alamo is no stranger to fine dining. Restaurants such as Elegant Bib and Luciano’s, both of which are now closed, drew sophisticated crowds to Alamo on a regular basis.
“Alamo has a rich fine dining history,” he said. “Probably more so than any other small town around here does.”
Forli is at 3160 Danville Blvd. in Alamo and is open for dinner nightly and for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays. For reservations or catering information, call (925) 820-1711 or click here.