|Industry||Food and beverage|
|Founder(s)||Larry Mindel (founded restaurant concept in 1986)|
|Headquarters||Corte Madera, California, United States|
|Number of locations||22|
|Area served||United States|
|Services||fine dining restaurant|
|Revenue||$120 million (2000)|
|Owner(s)||Roark Capital Group|
|Subsidiaries||Corner Bakery Cafe|
Il Fornaio is a chain of twenty-two (as of 2011) Italian-themed fine dining restaurants operating primarily in California (17 locations of its 22) in the United States. Il Fornaio also operates 2 bakeries (panificios) in California.
The Il Fornaio brand was established in 1972 as a baking school in Barlassina, Italy (in the Lombardia region). It opened a retail bakery in Milan in 1975, and was licensed in 1981 to Williams-Sonoma as a retail bakery concept. Williams-Sonoma opened four locations in California before selling the business to private investors in 1983. Initially unsuccessful, the chain was re-sold in 1986 to Larry Mindel, who had run local restaurant holding company Spectrum Foods and launched or bought a series of successful restaurants: Chianti in Los Angeles; Prego (one of the originators of California-style pizza), MacArthur Park, and Ciao in San Francisco; and Guyamas in Tiburon.
The new owners opened a total of 11 restaurant-bakeries in California in late 1980s and 1990s. The first restaurant location and headquarters are in Corte Madera, California, the second in San Francisco. They then branched out to Las Vegas, Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia, opening a total of 22 by 2008.
In 1997 the company became publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange. By 2000 the company had $124 million annual revenues. The company was eventually taken private again in a leveraged buyout. Mindel sold most of his equity and retired from daily operations of the group in 2001 (his son, Michael, continued and was Vice President of Marketing as of 2008), and in 2003 opened Poggio at the Casa Madrona Hotel in Sausalito as a personal project. Headquarters is in Corte Madera, California.
Under the direction of Executive Chef Maurizio Mazzon, a native of Venice, the company launched a second concept, Canaletto Ristorante Veneto, at the Venetian in Las Vegas in 1999, with a second location in 2008 in Fashion Island shopping mall in Newport Beach, California.
Each restaurant features a bakery that bakes its own bread. There is a core menu for all of the restaurants created collectively by their chefs, plus signature dishes and specials at the discretion of each chef.  In addition, the group markets ciabatta, sourdough, and other bread to supermarkets throughout California.
Overall, the company caters mostly to repeat guests and does not market extensively. Regular customers averaged 12.7 return visits per year (later reported to be 17), considered very high in the industry. The company is known for its long-running "passport" loyalty program promotion  Two weeks out of every month the restaurants promote dishes from a rotating schedule of Italy's 20 food regions with a special insert. The 10,000 promotion members receive a "passport stamp" from that region if they order one of the items, and those who collect all twenty stamps receive gifts and sweepstakes entries. As an unintended benefit, the promotion became a vehicle for recruiting cooks and chefs, after tourism offices in Italy noticed the promotion and established relationships with the company.
- ilfornaio.com - official website
- "Our Story". Il Fornaio.
- GraceAnn Walden (2002-12-04). "Il Fornaio's Mindel looks to Sausalito for his dream". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Alan J. Liddle (2003-04-07). "Industry veteran Mindel adds Italian concept Poggio to resume". Nations Restaurant News.
- "Fashion Island to open exclusive Italian restaurant". Daily Pilot. 2007-11-09.
- "Atlanta's Roark Capital buys Il Fornaio parent firm". San Francisco Chronicle. 2011-06-14.
- Janet Fletcher (2003-01-29). "Masterful Gnocchi". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Margaret Littman (2008-07-01). "Il Fornaio Promotes a Passport to Italy". Chain Leader.