Among the current wave of Italian restaurants popping up around Atlanta, Allora is the newest concept from Concentrics Restaurants , the group behind One Midtown Kitchen , Two Urban Licks, Tap and Parish.
Located inside Twelve Hotel Midtown at Atlantic Station, it replaces another Concentrics restaurant, Lobby Bar and Bistro, and moves executive chef Chris Maher, most recently the co-executive chef at One Midtown Kitchen, to a new starring role.
The remodeled space updates the dramatic circular bar, a leftover from Lobby, as a new focal point fitted with zinc and butcher block, steel and leather stools, and a crackling wood-fired pizza oven at one end.
Elsewhere, the spare, industrial design features an open kitchen, tables and booths appointed with leather and rustic wood, and a covered outdoor patio.
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Maher’s dinner menu explores classic Italian dishes, often augmented with contemporary techniques and seasonal ingredients, over a range of salads, small plates, pizzas, pastas and entrees.
Highlights include charred octopus, veal and ricotta meatballs with Parmesan grits, whole roasted branzini, grilled Wagyu flank steak, and Pork Milanese.
In the longtime tradition of a hotel restaurant, there are breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch and room service menus, too, with offerings such as a frittata, a burger and a chicken club.
Beyond the wine list curated by Concentrics’ Todd Rushing, look for signature cocktails, including the Al Capone with Dickel Rye, Campari and singed orange, and Italian and local craft beer on draft and in cans and bottles.
Last week at Allora, Maher took a few minutes to sit down and talk about the concept and the menu.
“The concept is pretty simple,” Maher said. “Concentrics wanted to reinvent what was here before and create an Italian restaurant that was kind of rustic, and I was able to put my influence on it, and play with it a little bit. But it’s still pretty straightforward and simple with ingredients that speak for themselves.
“My big focus is on the pastas. You’ll see a lot of infused flavors in the pasta doughs and some different things. One of the dishes we did is a Cacio e Pepe, which is a classic, and very simple. But we cracked some black pepper into the dough, and we made a Pecorino Romano cream, and took it a step further with a sous vide egg on top.”
Like the pastas, Maher designed the pizzas on the menu with the idea of riffing on the tried-and-true, including a carbonara pie with pancetta, house-made mozzarella, Pecorino Romano and a farm egg cracked into the center.
“We probably went through 40 different formulations of the pizza dough, trying to get it just right,” he said. “But right now, I couldn’t be happier with it. We cold ferment the dough for 48 hours in the walk-in. I think that gives it a lot more of that kind of funk in the flavor.
“When you really get into it, there’s a lot of science involved, with the different fermentation periods and temperatures, and the hydration percentages in the dough. A lot of work went into it.”
Maher said that designing the menus and working in the kitchen at a hotel restaurant is a difficult job, but he’s determined to enjoy it all.
“It’s very challenging, because we’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 365 days a year, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and all the holidays,” he said. “Maintaining the focus on the restaurant and handling in-room dining can be a lot to deal with sometimes.
“Developing a menu that’s complementary to that but also seasonal was the biggest challenge. In all, I had to write about seven different menus for all the different meal periods and venues and outlets here.
“I’ve been with Concentrics for going on six years, and they’re great people. When this possibility came up, I knew it was a one-of-a-kind concept, and I grabbed it. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I’m excited to be a part of it.”
361 17th St. NW (at the Twelve Hotel Midtown), Atlanta. 404-961-7370, alloraatl.com.
More images from a First Look at Allora