Allora Cucina is a charming Italian restaurant offering some of Melbourne’s most authentic Italian cuisine. Italian is spoken in the kitchen; stretchy, ash-flecked pizza is prepared by a genuine pizzaiolo; the wines are imported; the ingredients, seasonal. But Allora Cucina isn’t in Carlton. It’s not even in the city. Allora Cucina is in McKinnon – a quiet, leafy suburb 12 kilometres south-east of the city.
“Allora” might be an Italian filler word like “so” and “then”, but according to restaurant co-owner Renee McConnell, it’s the name of the fictional 1950s bombshell gracing the restaurant’s artwork and social media.
“It’s a pretty name, so we thought, why not create a personality behind it?” says McConnell. “First came a love for the building, which started off as an investment opportunity. But then we thought we could turn Allora into something that would bring the city to the suburbs.”
Renee and her husband Jason also run Peruvian restaurant Pastuso and Argentinian grill San Telmo in the CBD. When it came to turning their hands to Italian, the couple enlisted a team with deep experience.
Pizza chef pizzaiolo Alberto Zancan trained in his hometown of Treviso, spending 12 months rolling dough before moving onto toppings. That kind of attention to detail is reflected in Allora Cucina’s fluffy pizzas that fly out of the oven and onto the restaurant’s stylish timber tables. “Alberto showed us the artistry of handmade pizzas,” says Renee.
Head chef Jonathan Altmeyer-Cucolo hails from Salerno and prepares steaming bowls of house-made pasta, as well as plates of secondi, risotto and antipasti. In another callback to their homeland, the chefs offer a range of seasonal bespoke specials.
“After opening we could see there was a need for regular changing specials, using fresh, local produce,” says McConnell. “It brings something new to the regulars.
The regulars McConnell speaks of have been drawn to the McKinnon locale at an increasing clip. “We’ve doubled our patron numbers in the last year,” she says. “Locals tell us: ‘I can’t believe I can walk out my back door and get city quality.’ We wanted to introduce a family-style sharing menu – not fine-dining, but good food and good service with passion and flair. We don’t do things by halves.”
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