Great New Places to Eat 2018

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Smoked chicken tortellini surround a rich egg yolk (Photos by Marc Thomas Kallweit)

Allora

Allora is the third restaurant in a year from the husband-and-wife team of sommelier Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou and chef Deneb Williams, whose Uptown Pizza Kitchen and Woodlake Tavern serve casual comfort in the Del Paso neighborhood. The name of the restaurant, which opened in February, comes from an exclamatory Italian phrase that translates roughly to "What's next?"

"For [us], Allora is our 'what's next,' " Williams says of the decidedly upscale bistro in East Sacramento, a maze of intimate corners perfect for seducing a significant other over a shared plate of bucatini glistening with morsels of Dungeness crab and uni in a citrusy cream sauce. Or sidle up to a communal table crafted by Orangevale furniture designer Cedrick Gousse, lit by a cluster of white and gold lanterns and flanked by emerald green velvet chairs to create a theatrical setting for the kitchen's dramatic presentations.

From left: The signature pulpo appetizer with grilled sous vide octopus, potato gnocchi, Calabrian chili aioli, squid ink vinaigrette and pickled Fresno peppers; and the communcal dining table, overlooked by a towering wine cooler

The pulpo appetizer is currently the seafood-forward restaurant's signature. "Our octopus is cooked sous vide with red wine herbs and shallots, painted with a balsamic glaze and grilled so you get that nice char," says Williams, formerly the executive chef at The Firehouse Restaurant. If you're looking for a wine to pair with your diver scallops or skirt steak, Mandalou is one of only two certified advanced sommeliers in the region—so when she suggests a Greek chardonnay, you're in for a sip that would make the angels sing. And if you're always telling people you're "not a dessert person," executive chef Joe Pruner's buttermilk panna cotta with salty pistachios and crispy honeycomb will make a liar out of you.

"This is definitely a collaboration," says Williams. "It's like a theatre troupe. And you can sit at the bar next to the kitchen and watch the dance."  —Hillary Louise Johnson

5215 Folsom Blvd. 916-538-6434. allorasacramento.com