Tucked away among the row of restaurants in Mount Vernon, Allora is a relatively new bistro which opened in September 2021 that exudes the perfect balance of exquisite Roman charm and comfort. In Italian, “Allora” acts as a filler word, similar to the “likes” and “ums” of English, but it can also be used to draw attention to a particular thing such as a new restaurant. Whether or not the bistro is worth the attention it calls for in its name is something that I sought to discover.
My friend and I happened upon Allora when we were looking for a new restaurant to try in celebration of Baltimore’s biannual Restaurant Week, which lasts until Feb. 6. For those new to the city, Restaurant Week is a 16-year-old tradition that gives restaurants the opportunity to promote themselves by offering exclusive deals and multicourse meals at discounted prices. When I came across Allora’s charming interior design and delicious food photos online, I knew I had to check out this place.
After passing by a variety of restaurants from Japanese to Vietnamese to American on the same street as Allora, my friend and I finally found the quaint restaurant. Allora’s minimalist exterior complemented the colorful photographs and paintings that adorned the walls inside. The back end of the restaurant resembled a café, with golden-brown pastries kept behind glass displays and coffee options available to be ordered at the counter. The space, though quite small, made use of its corners well, accommodating tables and chairs of different styles with big windows that created a bright and airy atmosphere. The overall ambience was reminiscent of a typical Roman bistro as the bustling guests chatted, drank their coffee and read newspapers with the smell of pasta filling the air.
However, because of the few and packed tables, my friend and I had to wait a long time to be seated. Note to those who want to try out this restaurant: Make a reservation ahead of time to avoid freezing your toes off waiting outside. Also, the kitchens are only open until 3 p.m., so make sure to get there early since Allora’s dinner experience is not going to be available until Feb. 11. The staff was quick to seat us at a table as soon as one became available.
The menu options reminded me of my favorite Roman dishes, with appetizer options of focaccia bread and prosciutto as well as the typical pasta main courses. After debating between Allora’s three-course restaurant week menu or its regular menu, my friend and I decided to order from its regular menu, figuring that we would not have enough room for dessert (which kind of defeated the whole purpose of Restaurant Week, but we were still excited to be there).
We settled on a burro e alici crostini to share for an appetizer. While my friend opted for the cacio e pepe, I ordered a Bolognese dish after learning that the amatriciana was no longer available. All of our orders came very quickly, and the dishes’ aromas heightened our anticipating stomachs. The artistic plating made our “camera eats first” behavior all the more appropriate.
If you are planning to go to Allora, I would definitely recommend the burro e alici crostini. The texture of the toasted, crunchy sourdough bread perfectly contrasted with the creamy butter laid upon it. I was a bit speculative about the anchovy topping, but it added the right amount of salt to the dish. For an appetizer, I was delightfully surprised at how filling it was with flavors that made me nostalgic for Rome.
Next, came the main event: pasta! I have to admit that, while delicious, the Bolognese did not really stand out to me compared to ones I had eaten in other restaurants. I did appreciate the richness of the meat-based sauce and the freshness of the pappardelle pasta. On the other hand, my friend really enjoyed her cacio e pepe and inhaled it almost immediately. According to her, the sauce and cheese created the most delectable creamy texture for the capellini noodles. However, considering that she had not eaten the whole day and we waited a while for our table, she lamented that the portions were not larger.
Though I have other restaurants on my Baltimore bucket list, I still hope to return to Allora to sample its other dishes and desserts. The inviting and colorful atmosphere is definitely one that I will revisit for another taste of Rome, potentially once their dinner tasting menu is open to the public!