This Rockford restaurant only uses natural, fresh and seasonal ingredients, all cooked in wood stone ovens. And, it boasts extensive wine, cocktail and craft beer lists to wash it all down.
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, look no further than GreenFire Restaurant, Bar and Bakery, 6795 E. Riverside Blvd.
Shendet Ismajlaj, owner for the past year, has a long history of working in Rockford area restaurants and is now carrying on the dream of late owner and founder Philippe Forcioli, who owned Café Patou and then opened GreenFire when he wanted a farm-to-table restaurant.
Forcioli’s memory lives on at GreenFire.
“I worked with Philippe for several years and never met anyone who could cook like him,” says Ismajlaj. “He had a magic touch when it came to food and dealing with people. He was a very creative, grateful and patient person. I learned so much from him, mainly the techniques he used to prepare and present food. Because of him, I am always inspired to try new things.”
GreenFire is described as an American-contemporary farm restaurant, bar and bakery that uses only natural, fresh and seasonal ingredients, with everything cooked in state-of-the art wood stone ovens.
Ismajlaj has put his personal touch on GreenFire by enhancing the outside entrance of the business with lamp lighting and planters to herald the entrance to an out-of-the-ordinary dining experience. Tables have been refinished and new chairs brought in to add to the warm, cozy feeling inside, which is energized by large windows that allow for an abundance of natural lighting.
Ismajlaj moved a storage area on the west side of the restaurant in order to open up space for more seating and windows. His other goals include customizing menus for special events, updating the menu three to four times a year to reflect seasonal items, and opening up the bar space with suspended shelves for bottles and soft rustic lighting to correspond with the birch tree theme throughout the restaurant.
Ismajlaj was born in the nation of Kosovo and moved to Germany with his family when he was 8 years old. Because Cliffbreakers Restaurant was close to his home, he applied for a job and began working there as a server at 16. He liked the business and enjoyed pleasing people. It was there he met and worked with Philippe. Ismajlaj later became general manager at Giovanni’s Restaurant.
Today, he likes the smaller setting, which allows him more freedom and time for creativity. The restaurant seats up to 300 people. Two private rooms seat 30-50 guests and the business caters for special occasions.
“We offer something for everyone and welcome everyone wanting casual or fine dining, but we cater to the individual wanting to try something different. People tell us there is nothing like it anywhere. We are known for our customer service, quality of food and unique flavor combinations,” he says.
GreenFire has an extensive wine, cocktail and craft beer list. For breakfast, the choices include Tequila French Toast, made with thick cut Ciabatta bread, tequila crème anglaise, fresh berries, and a dusting of powdered sugar; Caramel Apple Pecan French Toast, Smoked Salmon Omelet, Avocado Eggs Benedict, Mushroom and Asparagus Crepes, Wild Berries Crepes, and Apple Cider Pancakes.
Appetizers include those made with sea scallops, shrimp, bacon, prime beef, and duck dates, which are gorgonzola stuffed dates wrapped in apple wood smoked duck bacon, with blackberry gastrique.
The menu features a variety of recipes made with oysters. There are salads, meat entrees, seafood dishes, burgers, pasta, wood fire pizza and those delicious crepes made famous by Café Patou. The chicken crepe is made with chicken breast, mushrooms, Dijon cream sauce, gruyere, and parmesan.
From the “Butcher Block” are herb-marinated certified Black Angus cuts of meat; the filet mignon has a parmesan crust, with mushroom asparagus risotto and champagne-marinated white asparagus. There’s also Rack of Lamb, Half Duck, Baby Back Smoked Ribs and Chicken Vesuvio.
And then there’s dessert.
Amanda Underwood and Nancy Bedows bake and decorate all desserts at GreenFire. Underwood grew up under the tutelage of her mother, who owns a bakery in Florida.
She loves the creative freedom at GreenFire, working with fresh ingredients and baking everything from scratch. On any given week, at least a dozen kinds of dessert are featured for individual purchase or to top off a meal.
The most popular one, by far, is the flourless torte, she says.
“I’ve seen a lot of variations of this dessert, but we’ve perfected it and there’s nothing around that comes close to our velvety dense chocolate cake,” she says.
Other mouth-watering items on the menu include Strawberry Shortcake, made with vanilla cake, fresh strawberries, and butter cream frosting; Key Lime Pie, made with fresh key limes; Blueberry Pie with a crumbled topping; Goat Cheese Cheesecake; Triple Chocolate Cake; Coconut Cream Pie topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut; Carrot Cake made from fresh carrots, raisins, pecans and cream cheese frosting; Tiramisu Cake; Peanut Butter Bombs, made from chocolate bean cake, with peanut butter mousse topped with a caramel drizzle.
There are regular and featured daily specials, as well as dinner pizzas for $10 after 10 p.m. every day. Learn more by calling GreenFire at (815) 316-3473.