Allora Chef Balances Cooking, Community Outreach

In addition to preparing meals from scratch, the Marlborough restaurant's chef spends time teaching kids about nutrition.

Jameson Mello has been in the restaurant business for as long as he can remember.

Mello, who grew up in nearby Leominster, has been the chef at Allora Ristorante since the establishment opened in June 2007. The restaurant specializes in Italian and Mediterranean dishes.

"We sell a lot of seafood: more so than many other Italian restaurants," Mello said, attributing the possible reason for this to the fact that Allora's Lake Williams waterfront location gives a feeling of being at the shore. "Our most popular dish is the stuffed salmon. The pan-seared sea scallops are also a big seller."

The recently remodeled restaurant has 150 seats including a function room, lounge, bar and another 100 seats on its outdoor patio, open during the warmer months. The location of Allora, a short distance from I-495 and the Mass Pike, is ideal, said Mello, adding that revenue at the restaurant has risen every year since it has opened.

Mello has also visited area schools and talked to kids about the benefits of good nutrition. Next week, he is welcoming a few eighth-graders from The Boys and Girls Clubs of Metrowest for a tour of the kitchen and the walk-in refrigerators.

"Whenever I see kids eating here, I invite them back into my kitchen. Out here [in the dining room], it's quiet and intimate," said Mello. "The kitchen has bright lights and everything is stainless steel. It's more exciting. I also show them the lobster tank. I take them out and let the kids pet them."

Mello said that during the week, most of the clientele consists of nearby, West Marlborough business professionals coming in for lunch and dinner. On weekends, he sees diners from many surrounding towns including Northborough, Southborough and Sudbury.

"When I reached that fork in my life when I had to decide what I was going to become," Mello said, "I really thought about why people go out to eat.

"Say something stressful is going on in your life, like your house is being foreclosed on. You want to come out, have the staff take care of you, eat a great meal and not think about it, even for just 45 minutes. I became a chef because I wanted to bring positive energy to people's lives. My staff is great too. We're like a family and we all gel well together."  

Everything at Allora is made from scratch. 

"All of us have what's called a 'pre-meal' meeting every night. We talk about the specials and what the ingredients are so the servers have the information for patrons with allergies. We also talk about what wines to pair with what dishes," said Mello.

Visit Allora's website and Facebook page to learn about upcoming events such as the Wine Dinner on Feb. 29. This is a four-course meal with cheese and dessert.

"I'm really excited about the menu," said Mello.

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