A New Dynasty : Allora by da Soli
892 Route 73
4 and a half forks
Marlton’s new kid in town comes by way of Allora, the second Italian eatery under the direction of chef Mark Berenato. Formerly of Tre Famiglia, Berenato made the move to go solo in 2011, opening da Soli on Kings Highway in Haddonfield. Da Soli—Italian for “on our own”—quickly became one of the most sought-after reservations in town, serving up warm and hearty Italian plates, constantly rotating specials and handmade pastas to regulars and newcomers from the main street’s walking crowd alike.
So with four years of success under his toque, Berenato eyed expansion. He took over the former La Posata Ristorante, which closed last summer after a long and successful run under the direction of chef Joe Vento. The new space was given a breath of fresh air, with clean, white walls and simple food photography filling several dining rooms. The entrance opens directly into a full-service kitchen, with cooks preparing the evening’s dishes in plain view and an immediate smell that that’s more than enticing.
The menu itself shares some similarities to da Soli—with a focus on a more rustic approach—but features a totally new selection of plates. Like a starter of stuffed artichokes, served without the leaves and wrapped in crispy prosciutto. It was quintessential Italy in one bite: The filling of house-made chicken and broccoli rabe sausage with oven-roasted lemon garlic combined to form a warm and salty but still bright and fresh combination.
The tastes in the mozzarella en carozza appetizer were a bit lost in the deep fryer; I would have liked to taste the plate’s layers of Italian bread, fresh tomato and Fiore di Latte mozzarella, but the dish’s breading and accompanying San Marzano tomato sauce were the primary standouts. Capers were a perfect, briny addition that added an instant hit of flavor and helped differentiate each bite.
Entrées and pasta dishes took a unique approach that still managed to fit into the menu and restaurant’s atmosphere. A plate of frascatelli e rabe highlighted that originality, with house-made semolina dumplings that were flattened into thick coins and sautéed with broccoli rabe and cooked white beans in garlic and olive oil, then served with homemade sweet Italian sausage. It’s a truly unforgettable plate, with greens that were cooked past their bitter point but still maintained a nice garlicky bite and sweet, juicy slices of sausage. The beans added a soft and earthy touch while the pasta itself was cooked to perfection.
I could have spent all night on the pasta were it not for a plate of pork con fico—boneless pork chops stuffed with soppressata salami and Fontina cheese, sautéed in a Sicilian Marasala sauce and served with broccoli rabe. The dish shows off what Allora does so well: comfort food. It may have been a bit of a messy plate, but the sauce was rich and well-developed and the pork was perfectly cooked.
The vitello Italiano—which was also available as chicken—was a massive fried veal cutlet topped with roasted red peppers, sliced garlic and grilled Italian long hots. The dish may have benefitted from a sauce, but the peppers added nice additions of heat and sweetness that helped lighten up the fried veal.
Even desserts seemed like an experience, as most of the menu was made in-house. The tres leches cake took on the traditional form, with milk-soaked pound cake and a whipped cream icing. The cake managed to still be fluffy and the icing creamy without becoming overly sweet or heavy. It was a traditional dish that really highlighted the skills of the kitchen, and left me with nothing but pleasant memories—and tastes.
As Berenato’s dynasty continues to grow, it’s good to know that the da Soli team has not lost the quality and attention to detail that has given them an already sterling reputation.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April, 2015).
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Author: Nancy Donovan; Photo by Alison Dunlap