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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
8.1
8.0
$40
Italian, Pizza
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Fri 7:00am–10:00pm
Sat–Sun 8:00am–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining, veg-friendly, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.caffe-allora.com

Pearl District
504 NW 9th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 445-4612
Caffè Allora
Totally legit Italian for the preening Pearl

Caffè Allora, with its slightly sleek, slightly slick chicness, is wonderfully Euro-trash. The joint is always bustling, and with its pretty waitstaff and outdoor tables full of handsome hair-product models, it could be something straight out of Bergamo or Bologna. It’s small and casual, though, unlike more annoying American-style trendy places. It’s a good spot for a mid-morning espresso or a work meeting, and during the World Cup, the upstairs area turns into the ultimate fan zone.

Beneath the surface, though, this place is totally legit. There are a dozen different salads, but none of them is the un-Italian Caesar. The inexplicably named “Berlusconi” seduces underage ladies with mozzarella, fennel, tomatoes, white beans, and olives. There’s also olive-oil-cured tuna, speck, prosciutto di Parma, and salame salad, which you can order as antipasti or in salads, or on panini at lunch.

Beyond that, about a dozen pastas center on delightfully traditional preparations. Penne all’amatriciana is slowly cooked over a long period to layer the spices and tomato, with pancetta (a worthy substitute for guanciale) imparting a slight smoky richness to the sauce. Better is carbonara, brought to the table hot so that upon arrival, the sauce is still in its formation phase, egg cooking to creaminess in pasta steam, Parmigiano melting.

For an authentic Italian experience, start with an aperitivo from the cocktail list. There aren’t many creative drinks here, just classics made with Campari and Prosecco, and a few excellent grappas. If you’re a Negroni fan, here’s your spot. The wine list gives just a glimpse into Italy’s diversity; whites are shackled to a uniform price point, and don’t have nearly as much variety as the reds. Still, the mostly northern glasses and bottles are eminently well chosen and fairly priced. Beers are even more succinct, but get the job done (but can we please get a better Italian beer than Peroni? Anyone?).

Portions are authentically European, and there won’t be any steak, pizza, or ridiculous lobster ravioli. Every now and then, there’s a good fish special, cooked expertly. And although the ambience gets kind of romantic, with tealights on the tables and a sexy minimalism, this is really best thought of as a lunch or extremely simple dinner spot.

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