Buon primo compleanno, Al Forno!

Al Forno's Restaurant Ingleby Barwick. Pic Doug Moody.
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Jacky Stevely reports on an exciting first 12 months for Al Forno’s Ingleby Barwick eatery…

Simply translated, we’re saying “Happy first birthday, Al Forno!” as this great all-round restaurant, at Sandgate Shopping Centre, Ingleby Barwick, approaches its 12-month milestone.

And what a year it’s been!

Erdal Kuzgun – popularly known to friends, colleagues and customers alike as simply AJ – and business partner Liam Percy are founders of this and two other sister Al Forno Italian restaurants in Middlesbrough and Darlington.

AJ says: “Not only has our first year at Ingleby gone super quickly but it has been a hugely successful one.”

So what are the prime ingredients that define a thriving restaurant such as Al Forno?

AJ is quite clear of the answer: “Sheer hard work and dedication.”

However, he doesn’t take personal credit for its success. Rather he cites the key members of his management team who, he says he cannot praise highly enough for their delivery of consistency of quality.

“They are united in having the same enthusiasm for their job,” says AJ. “They are the cornerstones of the business and work tirelessly, and often very long hours, both behind the scenes and face-to-face with our customers.”

So let’s meet the key members of the team who, with their combined experience of more than 30 years, know the recipe for success and definitely sing from the same menu…

General manager Cuma Erdem has worked at Al Forno for six years and is based at the well- established Darlington restaurant.

Al Forno’s Restaurant Ingleby Barwick. Pic Doug Moody.

A main man at Ingleby Barwick, described as “always cool and calm”, is Matt Baker, also responsible for staff training.

Talented general manager Taulant Hizmo is based at Middlesbrough and has been with the company for six years.

The general manager at Ingleby Barwick is Christina Moumouri. At the tender age of just 21, she’s the youngest manager ever employed by Al Forno.

And there to meet and greet you at Ingleby Barwick is newcomer to the team, restaurant manager Victor Windson.

Welcoming apprentices is also something the Al Forno brand is keen to support by offering a salary well above the normal apprenticeship rate.

People choose their favourite places to eat for a variety of reasons, so creating a place where customers want to return is a highly competitive business.

With the maxim ‘Fresh is best’, all Al Forno food is prepared from scratch, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Related costs have risen for the company but the menu price has remained the same for customers for many years.

Drinks-wise, you’re spoilt for choice with an array of craft beers, prosecco, cocktails and fine wine.

The Ingleby restaurant is set across two floors. Its interior décor is a perfect blend of contemporary style where rustic-industrial meets Italian. There’s attention to detail with the table candles set in charming Himalayan salt holders, adding a warm ambience for evening diners.

Along with its location within the neighbouring large urban housing development, Al Forno prides itself on being family-friendly and has established a regular customer base, with feedback and satisfaction the key.

If you’d like to sample Al Forno, the day starts with breakfast at 9am, with food available until 10pm. And it’s the perfect place for a relaxing morning coffee with friends or business get-togethers alike.

It’s a lovely location too for afternoon tea and for those larger celebrations such as christenings, birthdays and weddings.

Generosity and community involvement is also important to AJ and Liam. The pair have sponsored five local school football teams, a netball team and contribute to various charities and good causes throughout the region.

So we say, here’s to another successful year. Buona fortuna per il forturo, Al Forno! That roughly translates to “Good luck for the future, Al Forno.”


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