The anticipated opening of Allegro Bistro has San Diego foodies excited. The new restaurant has a small-bites concept typically reserved for European cities. However, it seems well suited for the food-obsessed beach city. Located on Hancock Street, it is slated to open late September. Recently, I sat down with restaurateur and owner Paul Gaurno to discuss the upcoming opening.
A Touch of Europe
Paul lived in Europe for a number of years including in France and Italy. A part of the European lifestyle remained with him when he returned to the United States. So it was fitting that he incorporated a taste of Europe in his new restaurant, Allegro Bistro.
Allegro is an Italian word used in classical music. It refers to tempo, especially when played in an upbeat, lively manner. In Europe, dining is appreciated like fine art. Friends and family gather at bistros for coffee and long, leisurely dinners. Whereas in America, frequently dinner is consumed while driving down the freeway or gobbled down while sitting in front of the television. Paul hopes to encourage diners to enjoy unhurried meals as if they were sitting in a Barcelona café or sharing a bottle of wine with friends while engaging in spirited conversations.
With more than 20 years of restaurant experience, Paul knew how to make his vision a reality. He knew he needed to have an experienced team in place, as well as people who shared his incredible passion for the industry. Having worked with Chef Nathan Rayle previously, Paul realized he’d fit in well with his latest project.
Chef Rayle has a wealth of experience, including stints at The Venetian, The Brigatine, as well as his most recent stretch at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. And whenever possible, he will use his contact list for sourcing quality ingredients, locally grown by farmers and organically produced by food purveyors. A previous career in commercial fishing will come in handy as he works with fishermen creating interesting fresh seafood dishes.
Given San Diego’s incredibly accommodating weather, it made perfect sense to have outdoor seating. The large, inviting patio is a perfect place for spending time with friends over a relaxing meal.
Breakfast service will include organic eggs and freshly made, artisan-style breads. There will be a host of scrumptious omelets including one decadent option of three-cheeses, sautéd crimini mushrooms and shaved black truffles. If you love seafood, then you will definitely want to try the blue omelette with crabmeat, fontina and Gruyere cheeses, organic spinach, finished with grilled asparagus on top.
Keeping with the European concept, diners can enjoy savory crêpes. When they begin dinner service, there will be plenty of tapas-style plates on the seasonal menu, including the gourmet jamon (ham), which comes from the unique black pig of Spain, as well as a variety of olives, cheese plates and other Mediterranean-focused cuisine.
Allegro Bistro will be one of the few places in San Diego where vegans and those who practice a gluten-free lifestyle can select from a medley of menu items. Selections include lemon and ricotto pancakes, gluten-free and vegan pancakes, walnut wheat pancakes and steel-cut oatmeal. There are also frittatas cooked in cast-iron skillets, an assortment of egg Benedict choices, as well as San Diego favorites including huervos rancheros and chilaquiles.
On Sunday, there’s a $10 all-you can-drink mimosa bar with each purchase of a breakfast entree. Instead of pouring lower, quality sparkling wine made in the Charmant or tank method like many other restaurants, Allegro Bistro will be pouring Spanish Cava, which is produced in the same method as French champagne. Also, the orange juice is from fresh oranges, not frozen concentrate.
The welcoming interior has soft white leather barstools, a backdrop of subway tiles and a white marble bar counter. Picaso-esque photos don the walls and a crystal and silver chandelier greets you in the main dining area. There are exposed pipes and industrial-looking lighting fixtures that give it an urban loft feel. It’s a pleasant balance of sophistication and casual, backyard entertaining.
Paul took classes to brush up on wines and wine service. However, he turned to friend and wine bar veteran Alex Minaev for assistance in designing an appealing wine list. Minaev, with 20-plus years of wine experience, including currently at The Palace Bar, located in the Horton Grand. The wine list reflects many of Alex’s choose; but Paul had a guiding hand in creating the list. There are plenty of California wines, as well as other New World regions. Although Napa Valley will be represented, so will wines from Paso Robles, Monterey, and Sonoma. The list is choked full of off-the-beaten path boutique wines that will rotate seasonally along with the cuisine.
Given Paul’s partiality for Europe, a number of Old World wines from Italy, France, Spain and Portugal are also well represented. There are some wonderfully delicious and reasonable priced French wines on the list including a handful from the Rhone Valley including Châteauneuf-du-Pape and other southern Rhone regions. Look for wines from Spain’s Rioja region, which will pair wonderfully with the tapas-style menu.
Allegro Bistro shares building space with 57 Degrees Wine Bar. This symbiotic relationship certainly will benefit customers of both establishments. Wine enthusiasts will be able to select wines from in-house list that have been perfectly paired with Chef Nathan’s amazing dishes. However, customers may also choose a selection from 57 Degrees Wine Bar and bring it to dinner for a small corkage fee. The two wine lists will not overlap, providing diners and wine lovers the best of both worlds.
The trolley stops at the Washington Street station so you can be sitting at a table within a two-minute walk. However, if you are hell-bent on driving, then you’re in luck. Unlike many of the wine bars located downtown or in nearby Little Italy, you won’t have to waste time circling for parking. There are several parking places on the street, in addition to ample parking behind the building. And equally important, parking is free.
Scheduled to Open: Sept. 27, 2014 (Please check the website, listed below for updates)
Location: 1735 Hancock St, Ste. B
Tags: restaurant, San Diego, San Diego Restaurants