After 28 years in business under the same ownership, Al Forno is one of the best restaurants in Providence. It isn't cheap, they don't take reservations (unless you are a party of 6+ tuesday-thursday), they are open 26 hours a week (closed sunday and monday), and it is usually packed.
And it is packed for good reason. Al Forno is all about the food. There are other restaurants with longer wine lists, fancier decor and table settings, or more formal dining, but that doesn't faze the owners of Al Forno. While everyone is professional and polite, there is a decidedly casual feel to the entire dining experience. T-shirts next to suits next to children. They focus on technically exacting food with flavors that are mature, full, and balanced.
I had not eaten at Al Forno for several months, and could not let winter arrive without hitting up some of their classic autumn dishes. Pizza with pumpkin and spicy oil is possibly my favorite pizza, ever. Jo's upside-down cranberry baby cake, and chocolate bread pudding. Caesar salad with grilled to order croutons. Rigatoni with veal bolognese, and the spicy clam roast. I could go on- everything is very good and often memorable.
Expect to pay $40-$50 per person all told. This is a lot, but there are several other restaurants in the area where you pay far more and get far less decadently prepared dishes.
Al Forno now claims the top spot on our growing list of Providence restaurants! I look forward to the meal that will unseat it, but don't expect it any time soon.