Community Food & Drink London

Mitshel Ibrahim's Little Italy

By Drake's

Mar 7, 2024

Mitshel Ibrahim's Little Italy

There’s a sign outside Forno that reads, “Hectic on the weekends… baking was good… not quite worth the hype.” Joe. 

It takes confidence and a sense of humour to embrace the critics, and even more to stick it on the sign out the front, but Mitshel Ibrahim knows that he’s onto a good thing here.

On the site of a former second-hand furniture shop, Forno opened in the spring of 2023, a bakery, pastificio and deli that was an immediate hit amongst Hackney locals more than willing to queue for focaccia, croissants and regional Italian specialities like Maritozzi and Veneziana buns; homemade tiramisu is in the fridge, and Roman pizza—a thicker, rectangular slice with a crispy bottom that is often served on the city’s streets—is fired up in a giant oven towards the back. There’s a little courtyard which, if you time it right, gets a lovely slither of late afternoon sun on a summer’s day. 

“In Italy you can go to a bakery and, if you ask nicely, the woman in the back can make you a tiramisu or a lasagne for your niece’s birthday,” says Ibrahim. “We wanted to create that mom and pop sort of deli that they have in New York, which has a much bigger Italian community than here, but that feeling that you can drop in for a pastry, a coffee, a glass of wine or take away a lasagna. Something for everyone… and with good branding of course.” 

Along with Forno, Ibrahim also oversees the Very Good Italian restaurant Ombra right across the road. He moved to London as a 19-year-old from Milan, where he grew up with parents who ran a restaurant, and started cooking while studying for an environmental science degree. “I didn’t have much on the horizon. I was thinking about becoming an architect, but I didn’t really want to go to uni in Italy straight away. I had some friends who were already in London, so I decided to give it a try.”

It’s a Friday morning and the place is humming, This Charming Man on the speakers mingling with other people’s conversations. Freelancers build deks on MacBooks and cyclists prop up their Pinarellos while waiting for cortados. A fairly hungover looking Miles Kane ambles in wearing a black leather jacket with a small and extremely white dog in tow. “It’s busy,” says Ibrahim with the look of a man who’s pulled more than a few seven day shifts. “Busier than we even expected when we came up with the idea, but we feel very lucky.” The previous night there’d been a party hosted alongside our friends at Slop Magazine, glasses of natural wine and slices of pizza served in a packed room. 

“It’s been an interesting learning curve, we’re always adjusting things. I’m thinking about maybe opening a coffee place that’s standing room only, doing more parties, more events, seeing where things take us. There's always more work to be done!"

Joe, if you’re reading this, you should come back, Forno is worth the hype. We'd recommend the tiramisu. 

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