The Journal: Mitshel Ibrahim, Forno

Nestled in the heart of Hackney is Mitshel Ibrahim's newest venture, Forno -- the holy trinity of bakery, pastificio and deli. Since opening in 2023, Mitsh, also the head chef of Italian restaurant Ombra, has quickly created a cult following for Forno and its deli delights of a porchetta sandwich, creamy maritozzo and some nduja sausage rolls.

 

Forno and its "older brother" Ombra, which brought its hand-rolled pasta and organic produce to Bethnal Green in 2008, sit on opposite banks of the Regent's Canal, a stone's throw away from Victoria Park. "We get so many people at Ombra tell us that they’ve been living in the neighbourhood for years, but only heard of us after going to Forno", says Mitsh, explaining his new project, Amici Miei. The collaborative series of weekend takeovers by top chefs transformed sibling rivalry into opportunity. As Mitsh jokes, Forno has been open for just over a year and Ombra for sixteen so feels "a bit like a first child feels the jealousy of the newborn."

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"Spontaneous yet obvious… et voila."

These weekend takeovers, Mitsh enthuses, are events "where friends, colleagues and mentors from Italy come over for a weekend." Collaborators, who have recently included Palermo's Corona Trattoria, Naples' Salumeria Malinconico and FEG, take over the lunch menu at Forno and then curate a formal tasting menu at Ombra the following day. They "get people talking about the two sites organically," whilst encouraging people to try some of Italy's finest cooking in two beautiful settings, bringing a slice of Italy to the capital. 

 

Mitsh places collaboration at the heart of both Forno and Ombra. "I never liked working in places where only the person in charge was the one that was allowed input", Mitsh tells us, whilst recalling recipes born from ideas bouncing between staff. His colleagues, he proudly says, are supported to be as creative as they want. 

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Forno was born from recognising the challenges in the restaurant industry during the pandemic. "Ombra was like every other restaurant in the world," Mitsh describes with characteristic humility, a claim that's hard to believe when you look at its bustling success. "We had to adapt, think and pivot." Creating a cherished addition to the neighbourhood is no small task, yet Mitsh looks back on it with a fond nonchalance: "All we had to do was get some packaging, a few labels, et voila."

 

Reflecting on the past extends beyond thinking about catering during Covid. Revisiting old recipes and dishes that have been served before can provide a treasure trove of inspiration for Mitsh. Recalling a recipe for spaghetti al pomodoro from his childhood, he tells us of the Nonna next door, whose name he never learned but who would serve him steamy plates of pasta. "There was no going back after trying Nonna's pasta", he says nostalgically. Today, he reinvents recipes, turning kitchen mishaps into something delicious. In Mitsh's words, "something new is born."

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You can visit Forno at 322 St Andrews Road, E84RP and Ombra at 1 Vyner Street, E2 9DG. 


Alternatively, why not try cooking Nonna's Spaghetti al Pomodoro at home?


Nonna's Spaghetti al pomodoro(Serves 3):


Ingredients: 


  • 360g spaghetti
  • 800g peeled tomato
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Basil
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


Method: 


  1. Peel, the garlic and cook it very gently in copious amount of olive oil.
  2. When soft enough to be crushed with the back of a fork, add the peeled tomato and simmer for 20-30min on low heat until most of the water has evaporated.
  3. If you have one, use a vegetable mill to turn the peeled tomato into a rustic glossy sauce, alternatively use a hand blender.
  4. Cook the pasta, drain one or two minutes before the advised cooking time, cook for the remaining time in a pan with the tomato sauce.
  5. Plate, drizzle with olive oil and copious amount of basil.

At SIRPLUS, we are thrilled to follow Mitshel's creative journey. To stay informed about Forno and Ombra events, visit their Instagram accounts. You can also explore our latest summer collection, featuring tailoring and Nehru styles.