Forno is a bakery, pastificio, and deli just off Mare Street in Hackney serving up traditional Italian delicacies. Forno’s creations are sensational and unpretentious in equal measure. Savoury and sweet treats are plentiful, the Maritozzi has something of a cult following, and with good reason.

Formed by the people behind Ombra, the sister restaurant across the street, both are based on a formula of simple, hand-crafted, freshly baked, in-house products, using quality ingredients.

Mitshel Ibrahim is the Chef and co-owner. We sat down to talk, and eat a few pastries.

PAUL MISSING (PM) :  Working with people within the food industry is something that’s close to our hearts. Our son is a food writer and our daughter has published cookbooks of her own. So food is a big thing for us.

But also, we see that there’s a symmetry between what you do and what we do. You live and die by the quality of what you produce and the ingredients you source. We see ourselves as being very similar, we’re very particular with the people that we work with, because we want to produce something that is special. If something is going to cost a little bit more, it has to be better. Try to focus on buy once, and buy the best.

Mitshel Ibrahim (MI):  It’s so similar, and I agree, the sourcing is so important to being clear on the difference in quality. When it comes to our supplies, we try and keep everything as local as we can – our chocolate is from Land who are around the corner, our milk, the flour, all local  – if something local is good, brilliant. If it’s not good enough here, then I will look back to Italy and make sure we have the best in a different sense of local. Family local.

Before opening Forno, we had Ombra, just across the road. It’s been open for 13 or 14 years now. And essentially during lockdown, like most restaurants, we had to change our offering and we sort of became an Italian daily shop, selling our fresh pasta, which we always make in the house, cold cuts, pastry, pasta sauces. And then occasionally on weekends, we make special pastries or cakes from whatever saint was celebrated on that weekend that had a specific cake to celebrate in whatever region of Italy.

MI: We noticed there was like quite a lot of interest in this sort of thing, and when lockdown was about to end and the restaurants had to go back to be restaurants, because it was more profitable we were like “oh it would be nice to keep doing this shop daily”.

And this place came about, which was perfect considering the position of the Bomba. We loved the daily workings, but this place was too big to be just a daily so we had to add the bakery, cafe element to it for it to work. The space is available to hire in the evenings, and it’s busy, so it works well. So yeah, that’s how Forno came about. And we’ve just celebrated Forno’s first birthday, which is great.

Ceramics by Skye Corewijn.

PM: So, it’s been a pretty interesting year. I mean, and kudos to you, that was a big risk to take at that point in time.

MI: Yeah, I mean, it wasn’t easy with many businesses closing. But, we just noticed there was so much support and interest from either people that knew what was that we were serving for that special weekend or people that were happy to be educated about – you know, it’s not just pasta and pizza there’s so much more about Italian cuisine.

PM: And is baking your thing?

MI: No, Ombra is a restaurant and I come from kitchens. I work in kitchens, my parents have a restaurant back in Milan, in Italy, which I’ve tried to avoid working into but inevitably… Italian families, especially that are in that industry, you’ve got no choice have you? You’re working. I worked in various kitchens and then Ombra was the last kind of kitchen I landed into – living to and with Paul and Steven who are my business partners.

Again, I think that’s where there is a similarity. If you’re trying to build a good business, you have to do it incrementally and slowly and hopefully.

PM: Absolutely. At MISSING every component we use is sourced from within the British Isles, and everything is made in London. We just work with artisan producers, like our button maker, labels, everything. And that’s a conscious decision of ours to do that.

It’s very much a learning process. I was in the art industry before this, my wife ran a lingerie business. But as you know, it’s not too dissimilar again, bringing a new restaurant to market, bringing a new brand to market the success rate is minimal.

There’s so much noise out there online, to make yourself seen and heard is very difficult. When you’re up against companies with seemingly unlimited budgets that are able to gift  products freely it’s difficult, as a small independent, self financed brand we are unable to do this.

Slight tangent – AC or Inter?

MI: Inter. We just got kicked out of Champions League.  It was so painful. Because I mean the league we basically won already, more like a head 12 points, so Champions was really the only target.

PM: I mean they’ve done pretty well I think, given the squad that they have,

I’m an Arsenal fan so things are going quite well.

MI: You’re top at the moment, no?

PM: We’re top at the moment, but that can change!


**Reader, this went on… For a while… We move on…** 

PM: I love the space, it’s cosy but open and busy, and the light and energy are great.

MI: Thank you. The FORNO space was very much inspired by E5. We like to use the space and keep it busy, using it for different things.

So back in the days they used to have just one arch and it’s very much like that. You enter, you’ll be at the coffee counter, the pastries, you can have a look at all the bakers working away. And I really like that, the fact that you can see things happening. So even when not very busy, it still feels busy because there’s movement.

PM: Do you think by having it so exposed, does it help the process at all?

MI: It makes it more difficult, because you have to watch spilling the flour, you have to keep things as clean as possible – it’s a new experience and a first for a lot of the people in the kitchen.

In the future, we would love to grow and have plans, but it has to have the same integrity and the same visibility on the supply chain, the same quality ingredients.

We do wholesale, cater for both Allpress sites, and we are lucky to sell our bread to a few local restaurants – our pastries are labour intensive so it’s great to have them on site and for others enjoy the bread elsewhere.


PM: Tell me about the team and the need to cater for them…

MI: We are a team of a dozen – the best.

The industry is so competitive, so keeping the talent is so important – I know a lot of bakers expecting massage packages now! Which makes sense, you’re physically moving so much, it’s really labour intensive, so you need to invest. We sent a few bakers to Copenhagen and we have a partnership in Naples so people get to see things done in different ways, learning new techniques and challenging themselves.

You can’t rest on your laurels – you have to constantly adapt.

But we’re one year old so everyone wants to work here – I’m receiving cover letters for why people want to work here – I’ve never received cover letters before!

But in three years there will be a new restaurant that has the draw that we do now.

PM: You’ve done a brilliant job Mitshel, it’s a really wonderful set up.

One last thing. What do you like about MISSING?

MI: I really like that the pieces are casual but still feel kind of fancy. I like the fit and the palette you’ve chosen – the colours are sophisticated without taking themselves too seriously.

Mitshel wears the M04 Chambray Short Sleeve Shirt and the M01 Emerald Two Pocket Jacket

March 19th, 2024



322 Andrews Road, Bethnal Green, London, E8 4RP



Mon – Fri : 07:30 – 16:00

Sat & Sun : 08:00 – 17:00



Photography: Izy Dixon

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