Allora. It’s a difficult word to define—one that’s second nature to Italians but defies easy translation. At it’s heart, it’s a bridge—to a moment in time, between thoughts, to begin a conversation.
It’s as whimsical as it is down-to-earth—the perfect name for a restaurant, thought Nick and Jess Harris, a metaphor for the bridge they’d create to community, the space they’d provide for people to reconnect over authentic Italian cuisine.
Nick and Jess began dating at the ages of just 12 and 13, and worked together at Henrietta’s, the bakery owned by Nick’s family. After completing university—Nick in classics and Jess in metalsmithing and jewelry design—the couple took on the role of managing the Henrietta’s location in Huntsville.
After they had travelled together in Italy, and eventually got married there, their love for Italian food turned into a dream of opening a Tuscan-inspired restaurant in Muskoka.
The idea for bringing authentic pizza to Huntsville came when the couple had a layover in Verona during their travels, at a pizzeria in the bottom of a dingy apartment building. It took three years of planning and researching to cultivate their vision.
“I’ve always had a passion for cooking ever since I could reach the stove,” said Nick, who is Allora’s head chef. “I never actually had a dream to run my own place until we fell in love with Italy. The country will always have a special place in our hearts.”
Allora opened in November 2020, and has been complimented for its upscale chic vibe, but it took considerable planning to get there. When the Harrises took possession of the space, it was just a shell. Everything down to the hardware was hand-chosen by Nick and Jess.
“We wanted to create a really beautiful atmosphere,” said Nick. “We often struggled with where to go on date night and we wanted to give the community a totally new vibe and ultimately an escape from everyday life. We want our customers to feel free to just pop in for a pizza and a Coke, or if they want to have a high-end experience with a fancy bottle of wine they can do that, too.”
Allora’s menu is inspired by their memories of Italy, as well as from Nick’s experiments in the kitchen. For example, the inspiration for La Zucca, one of Allora’s specialty wood-fired pizzas, is based on a pasta dish that Nick used to make at home for his family. Topped with roasted squash, garlic, fior di latte, pancetta, fresh basil, and chili oil, it’s Jess’s favourite. Nick’s favourite is the Capri—topped with San Marzano, mozzarella du bufula, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and oregano.
All of their pizzas are customizable, and there are both vegetarian and vegan options—like nutzarella, a locally made dairy-free cheese. They will soon introduce gluten-free pizza options made with gluten-free flour imported from Italy.
Allora also offers decadent desserts, cocktails, and appetizers that have received rave reviews from patrons.
“It’s been a great response so far,” said Jess, who manages front of house and helps in the kitchen when needed. “The community have been so supportive and people really love the atmosphere. The first few months have been really amazing.”
Although the restaurant opened just a few months ago, and has had to adapt to changing pandemic restrictions, Nick and Jess have many ideas for the future, while balancing home life with their almost-two-year-old daughter, Willow.
They plan to expand Allora’s menu to include more traditional Tuscan cuisine, like handmade pasta and wood-fired meats, as well as work with local meat and produce suppliers for seasonal ingredients to keep the menu fresh and ever-changing.
Come spring, they will open a patio where they will feature live music.
Allora is located at 19 Main Street E. in Huntsville. Takeout hours during the current stay-at-home orders are Tuesday through Saturday from 12-8 p.m.—order online at alloramuskoka.com or by calling 705-789-1862.
Follow Allora on Instagram @allora.muskoka.
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