By Fatin Kwasny, Founder & Austin Ambassador
When Cesar Navari and his wife Renata decided to open Ristorante Il Forte in downtown Austin, they brought a taste of their small coastal town of Forte Dei Marmi, Italy with them to share with the Long Horn Nation. Walk into their authentic northern Italian eatery on 8th street between Brazos and Congress Ave., and you’ll find the restaurant decorated with beautiful Italian-marble tables, paying homage to both their new home and the old-world Italian tradition they share. As MezzeCulture cultural hosts the Navari's hosts a group of travel enthusiasts for a monthly event series, A Northern Italy Homemade Pasta Tour.
The Navari’s use their own Tuscan family recipes to create a range of specialties that patrons have come to love. From panini to pastas and a selection of wonderfully traditional antipasti and insalate, to small plates and salads, as well as a range of meat-rich dishes and sauces that accompany house-made ravioli and pastas. Of course, no generous Italian meal would be complete without an offering of several decedent Italian desserts, and that’s just what Il Forte does to delight guests with selections such as a custard-based Mascarpone Mousse and homemade Tiramisu that is Renata's specialty.
When it comes to their family recipes from Tuscany, the team at Il Forte proudly shares the classic taste of their regional Italian fare from the small town of Forte Dei Marmi on the western coast of Italy in the Province of Lucca, about an hour and a half from Florence. “When someone goes to [dine] at a restaurant in Italy, you’ll find small restaurants are run by the family and they take pride in everything they do, from the wine to the dishes to the experience,” Navari shared. These sentiments are what lay behind his and Renata’s own enthusiasm to share an authentic and warm experience that’s as quintessentially Italian with their own guests.
At the downtown eatery some dishes are a surprise to diners more familiar with popular Italian-American cuisine, but after stepping out of their comfort zones and giving these traditional Italian dishes and ingredients a try, they absolutely love them—the intense flavor of a meat-based ragù simmered like a familiar Bolognese sauce but a bit longer, for example, has become a favorite after being recently added to the menu.
Step into the restaurant and you’ll feel a kind of joy as you walk into family-owned Italian hospitality that you're drawn to become a part of. From a large photo of Forte Dei Marmi that decorates the wall above the entryway, to the marbled tables celebrating the locally beloved University of Texas Long Horns, and the warm scents of a large pizza oven baking favorites, the Navari’s and their Austin patrons always feel at home at Ristorante Il Forte.