Saturday, February 11, 2017


I heard of a new restaurant that opened at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center called Allora Italian Kitchen and Bar and could not imagine it would be different from any other local Italian eatery.   Why would you expect a Corporate Chef named Steve Koutsoumbaris to run the kitchen of what turned out to warrant a label of “finer dining” of Italian cuisine that you might expect in any city’s Little Italy?

I went there with a few friends.  Luchia Lee is Taiwanese American, her husband Ken Howell is a vegetarian.  Allora looks enormous when you enter.  On the left is a large bar area complete with tables and chairs.  A few lounging chairs and tables sit in front of a fireplace located in the middle.  The main part of the restaurant has a few dining areas, one of which sits near two brick pizza ovens and a room dedicated to wines.  Beyond that is a terrace which I’m told will open for the Spring season.  

We decided to have a drink in front of the fireplace, not just to warm up from the outside weather (It was just an excuse since we parked directly in front of the door).  Here came the first test.  Limoncello.  Would it be imported from Italy where the special sweet lemons are grown?   My friends each had a glass of red Italian wine.  Then the Director of Mixology Daniel Rothberg came over to tell me about some of his latest concoctions.  Galera Sappore has a base of Absolut Elyx Vodka and Violet Liqueur, fresh lemon sour, and a splash of beet juice for color, finished with an aromatic torched rosemary sprig.  That is the one I chose.  Next time it’s Bocce Bell – Stoli, Amaretto Luxardo, fresh orange juice, Peach Bitters, a dash of club soda, and garnished with Brandied Amarena Cherries. 

First up were some appetizers starting with a Burrata, a ball of mozzarella with a creamy ricotta in the middle.  Mozzarella is made on the premises as is their ricotta cheese, which has many uses as Italians love to dollop their dish.  It was served with roasted tomato, pomegranate seeds, and smoked almonds.  There is usually a balsamic glaze which is a no-no for me. 

Ken was treated to a Crostini Trio Crostini Trio:  Eggplant Caponata; Whipped Ricotta, Hazelnut & Honey; Wild Mushroom and Taleggio Cheese.  Veggie heaven then came down in the form of “grilled and roasted”.  We all loved it as we did the Beet Salad with shaved fennel, pistachios and a Pesto Ricotta. 

Now, it’s time to “non-veggie” beginning with Nonna’s  Meatballs made with beef and pork, “Sunday Gravy” (Gravy is somewhat defined as “sauce”)  and whipped Ricotta.  Luchia was quite impressed on how soft and flavorful they were.  

For whatever reason I decided to order the Octopus.  I did expect the “chewiness” that came along with it and was totally shocked at the soft texture!  Steve later came over to explain his cooking preparation (which he bragged about passing on to some top chefs who were as surprised as well).  Hey, he is Greek! 

Pasta and pizza are among the top sellers here and I can certainly understand why.  All of the pastas are made on the premises.  What’s better than having fresh pasta?  I’ll tell you.  There was an item called Gnudi.  What?  Think about having gnocci, those pillowy pastas made from potatoes and flour.  Instead of using potatoes, they use ricotta cheese.  OMG! It is served with Taleggio Cream, Prosciutto, and Shiitake mushrooms (prosciutto served on the side so that Ken could indulge as well). Another pasta:  Pappardelle topped with a Short Rib Ragu and Whipped Ricotta.  Smiles from both myself and Luchia.

One small pizza for all of us to be gratified.  What is a Detroit Style Pizza?   A cross between a Sicilian and Chicago deep dish.  We went for a Grandma with mozzarella, roasted tomato and bread crumbs.  My pizza habit tends to be scrumptious on the first slice and then I want to simply remove the toppings from the second and toss out the crust.  Not this one!  The thick crust is crunchy on the outsides and soft in the middle.  Steve shared how the dough was prepared in order to make it “airy” and adding a bit of cheddar cheese for extra flavor.   

I have another test.  Osso Buco made from a veal shank.  The meat was perfectly cooked coming out soft and “falling off the bone”.  Sauce (gravy) was wonderfully savory.   Cooked with roasted root vegetables and Trofie Pasta (thin, short and twisted).  What is the most important part but this dish…the marrow.   I used a knife at first and did not find it necessary to spread on anything.  I then simply took the now bare bone and sucked it out.  All of the savory-ness from the cooking seemed to melt into the marrow. 


I realize that we have “pigged out” at this point.  Thanks to being able to take home leftovers, it was not an issue.  We just had to experience some desserts which except for the gelato are another “made on the premises” treat for the eyes and mouth.  

Cannoli Nachos: deconstructed cannoli using Cannoli Crisps, pastry cream made with ricotta cheese, chocolate flakes and chocolate chips.  Apple Napoleon:  using a crispy Phyllo dough, cinnamon apples, a mascarpone cream, (Did you expect ricotta?) and topped with pistachio gelato.  Having a fondness for hazelnut gelato, I requested a dish of that.  Wherever they get the gelato from…it’s totally authentic and doesn’t taste like there is “flavoring” vs the real thing. 

What can you expect in the way of service?  Keep in mind that we were here on a Tuesday evening.  Plates and silverware was cleared and replaced after each course.  We all had gotten up to view the pizza ovens and chef at work.  When we got back to the table, the napkins were refolded with silverware placed atop.  Ken had never seen this and I had to explain that it is not typically done and depends upon what the Corporate or Executive Chef wants to wait staff to do.  I think that it gives a more caring touch to dining out giving a more caring and VIP feeling.   

I was going to order coffee but I told the waiter that I was “on a diet”.  In the meantime, I will go back to speak with both Steve and Daniel to obtain the lunch and bar bite menu along with an interview.  

I went back to check out some of the great cocktails that the Mixologist, Daniel has been concocting as well as the Bar Bites menu.

Since Steve came up with the Bar Bites menu, I took a few photos of him
He is standing in front one of two pizza ovens.

This is where they keep the wines.

This is a hand cranked slicer to make meats such as proscuitti come out very thin. Heat of an electric machine keeps it fresher and cooler.


No comments:

Post a Comment