It's certainly alluring

A post-army India trip hardly conjures up visions of an Italian trattoria, but it is how Allora, Tel Aviv's new Italian kitchen, was born.

allora 88 (photo credit: )
allora 88
(photo credit: )
A post-army India trip hardly conjures up visions of an Italian trattoria, but it is where Shahar and Sagi met, and how Allora, Tel Aviv's new Italian kitchen, was born. Becoming friends over chai and naan, the two shared their love of Italian food following their return to Tel Aviv. Working together at Dita, the classic Rothschild eatery, they learned bar and restaurant management skills and met their head chef, Muchi Ra'ad. For all their experience, this trio have succeeded in opening one of Tel Aviv's most charming Italian restaurants. Shahar and Sagi, along with Muchi, have put together a menu that will send your taste buds to the banks of the Tiber. Not surprising since prior to opening, the two partners traveled to Rome to research authentic Italian cooking on a fact finding mission, the pictures from which hang on Allora's walls. All that remained was finding the right location. When the Stuzi pizzeria on Rothschild became available, they jumped at the opportunity. Next, Shachar and Sagi decided to marry Stuzi's fine pizza with what they had learned in Rome. After continuing with the Stuzi menu for a couple of months, they closed down, renovated, rewrote the menu keeping the well-loved pizza and desserts, and reopened as Allora. On my visit, my dining partner and I sat on the charming porch, with a great view of Rothschild's interesting traffic - both people and vehicular - along with a nice breeze. However, it's the interior that's full of small town Italian charm. Upon entering you immediatly notice the large, well-stocked wood bar, behind which is the wood-burning oven that emminates intoxicating Mediterranean aromas. The exposed brick walls and aformentioned photographs make the small tables a perfect romantic getaway, especially when money's too tight for flights to Italy. Our meal opened with some fantastic starters. The crispy focaccia was well seasoned with sea salt, fresh oregano, olive oil and garlic - perfect for dipping into the three enticing spreads served alongside. Two were tapenades, one of sun dried tomatoes and the other kalamata olives, both tasty if not ground-breaking. The third, a labane cheese with fresh herbs was a brilliant combination of Israel and Italy, full of flavor, sour from the cheese, with hints of sweetness and enjoyable to eat. We also tried the aubergine roasted in the wood-burning oven with tomatoes and feta, also great with the focaccia. The standout starter, and most interesting menu item, was the lamb prosciutto. Close to a meat carpaccio, the thin slices of cured lamb covered in olive oil, lemon and arugula gives even those whom don't dig swine the opportunity to try this classic dish. Though lacking the tenderness and flavor of a great Italian pork prosciutto, the lamb was a tasty substitute. We then sampled a series of pizzas, all of which had a great consistency, with just the right amount of crunch. The pizza with goose breast and egg was cooked perfectly, the yolk still soft and oozing, a rare find in this country. The pizzas were exceptional, among the best in Tel Aviv - a far cry from the olive, corn and tuna topped trash that has unfortunately become standard Israeli fare. The pasta dish we tasted was a straightforward seafood medley, loaded with fresh, well-cooked shrimp, calamari and mussels. Its sundried tomato cream sauce was a nice touch. The lamb ossobuco was also decent, falling off the bone and well seasoned in red wine. The short, well planned beverage menu features Israeli and Italian wines and interesting cocktails of classic Italian flavor. Our meal finished with a sinfully decadent chocolate souffle, though a bit overdone on the Tel Aviv restaurant scene. The tiramisu was excellent. Our great meal was rounded off with an expertly pulled, short Café Taza d'oro espresso and a small glass of Santa Ursula Muscato d'Asti, an Italian dessert wine that tasted like sunshine in a glass. Allora is a great bet and step forward for accessible Italian food in Israel. First courses and salads range in price from NIS 16 to NIS 42, pizzas from NIS 34 to NIS 44, pastas and main dishes from NIS 42 to NIS 68 and desserts from NIS 22 to NIS 28. There is a business lunch from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday to Thursday. Allora, 60 Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv, (03) 566-5655. Open Sunday to Thursday from noon to midnight, Friday noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight. Delivery is available. Not kosher