Allora, My Love

“The Vegetable Risotto was a fascinating experience of intense flavors: a traditional dish of rice, zucchini, mushrooms, yams, and parmesan, covered with a rich, thick cream sauce – a flavor to savor!...” Daniel Rom claims that he would have enjoyed Allora restaurant in Tel Aviv even if had he not a single good word for the food. Luckily, reality did not put him to the test.

Allora’s d?cor isn’t just like any other restaurant’s. The feeling is that it was designed by an artist to fit the former site of the legendary Stuzzi pizza parlor. We entered through the sunlit patio, which overlooks Rothschild Boulevard, walking atop breathtaking basalt paving which was imported from Italy, the inspiration being the pedestrian malls which surround the piazzas. The entrance takes you into an Italian home, and you will sense this even if you have never set foot in Italy. Homey lamps, flood the interior with warm light, beautiful rock covering the walls, and heavy wooden furniture around the tables and bar. The tables are round and adorned by small vases. A leather couch in the corner completes the d?cor. The style is specific, yet the atmosphere is warm and lacking in pretension. Italian music fills the air, and the walls are covered in pictures of Italian streets and people, taken by Sagi and Shachar, the owners. A sink, which strikes a similarity to Italian fountains, makes for a proud additional touch. The center of the space houses the large wood oven, which adds a wonderful smoky flavor to the meals and also gives off that warm fireplace-feeling on a harsh winter day. Even had I not enjoyed the food, I would have enjoyed my time here. However, from what we had to eat, my companion and I can say that the taste fit in only too well with the wonderful atmosphere.

The waitress brought over an Italian focaccia with 3 spreads: clemente olives, tomato pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes. We cracked open the hot focaccia; I enjoyed the soft interior, whereas she could not resist the crispy corners and dipping them into the sun-dried tomatoes. The oven-baked eggplant, adorned with tomatoes and feta cheese taught us of the wonders of Italian oven dishes – a smoky flavor flooded our mouths, combining with melted cheese and the cool fresh tomatoes. If that weren’t enough, we were also given lamb prosciutto – lamb carpaccio in olive-oil, lemon, and herbs. In spite of the surprisingly low costs of the first courses, the portions offer a challenge, especially for those who are intent on also having an entr?e.

Luckily for us, it was lunchtime on Friday. We were in no hurry and so could take the time to chat up Sagi and Shachar, the owners, who met in India some ten years ago, and are living their dream in the present. It should not be taken for granted that, just like that, two friends, young and bright, get together and make their dreams come through. Even more incredible is that the stars seem to have realigned to facilitate their dream: and old friend from their hometown of Amirim built them the fantastic wooden furniture; Avichai Haim, a friend and graphic designer, came up with an ingenious concept for them; and mom baked her homemade cookies which would go on to become an integral part of the dessert. All this fits together into Sagi’s and Shachar’s mission. These are two people, each with an impressive culinary record, who have long since set aside any fear of the pursuit of happiness. Those skeptics among us would probably point out that success is not guaranteed. I would retort that it is impossible to set foot inside of Allora restaurant and not get swept up in the love, which led to long days and nights of work, as well as to a journey through Italy.

A quarter of an hour later, we put our faith in the house recommendations as to what to order. Four entr?es, representing the variety of flavors offered by Allora, were brought to our table: arugula and duck-breast pizza, pasta Alio Olio with sun-dried tomatoes, vegetable risotto, and Mediterranean-style chicken livers. The pizza is the famous Stuzzi pizza – focaccia pastry, thin and crispy, half of it covered with fresh arugula, excellent parmesan, cherry tomatoes, and olive oil, and the other half covered with duck-breast, parsley, and egg. Regarding this pizza, I will simply quote Sagi: “some things should be left untouched.” So S