Italian with class
Sacramento, CA 95819
East Sacramento is becoming a hotbed for high-end dining. On a quiet Folsom Boulevard corner now sits Allora, a new Italian seafood restaurant by chef Deneb Williams and his wife, sommelier Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou. A glance around the interior reveals a surprisingly classy joint, which opened earlier this year after a long build-out and much anticipation.
The restaurant’s epic “wine center” towers more than 20 feet tall, reaching nearly to the vaulted ceiling and requiring a rolling ladder to access many vintages. Green velvet chairs and golden accents gild the bright, open space, which includes a visible kitchen and large communal table looking up into the lofty wall of wine. The outdoor patio sports walls of shelved gardens, surrounding diners with the same lush greenery that will end up on their plates.
Thankfully the food is as alluring as the interior design. One funny thing about this seafood restaurant, though: During two dinner visits, few of the tables near me ordered seafood, instead requesting meat-based dishes. Perhaps that’s because when I asked the staff what their recommendations were, none of them mentioned the seafood.
On my first visit, I decided to follow the herd and listen to my server’s glowing review of the cavatelli in tomato chili broth ($20) and braised short ribs ($32). The cavatelli was a hit with a bit of spice and thick-shaved pecorino scattered over the top. There was a lot going on in the bowl but it worked. The short rib itself was nothing short of stellar, though the overall dish was a little busy. The beef was perfectly braised in tomato and red wine, resting on a bed of rye spaetzle, braised radicchio, carrot butter, pancetta, and other things that might have distracted the execution. There were so many items on the plate that I spaced out halfway through my server’s explanation, but I still enjoyed the dish immensely.
The surprising star of the table was the beet-strawberry salad ($11), which dazzled visually and hit all the right sweet-tart-salty notes. The buttermilk panna cotta ($9), is probably the best panna cotta I’ve ever eaten. The creamy tang of the buttermilk played well off the well-textured toppings of pistachios and honey crisps. After a rich dinner, it’s more than enough dessert for two.
On another visit, I opted for seafood despite the staff steering me towards another meat dish. The swordfish ($32) was spot-on, though my portion was small and low on the salt. Again I felt the plate was a little busy, though it still worked, especially as supporting cast to the swordfish.
Allora’s brunch offerings are just as compelling as the dinner menu. My Eggs in Purgatorio ($14) were cradled in a bed of polenta and topped with thick-shaved Parmigiano. Though the egg white was overcooked, that is a minor criticism. My dining partner’s Hangtown Hash ($16) was close to full points, with creamy eggs and fried oysters that hit the textural mark. My only true complaint about brunch was my mimosa ($8), a half pour that came with flat sparking wine and a full-sized price tag.
What’s the final word on Allora? I highly recommend it for a date night or special occasion, and despite the restaurant’s seafood leanings, the meat dishes are popular for a reason.