Entering Caffé Allegro in historic downtown La Verne, the smell of fresh made bread, basil, and nutty Parmesan cheese fill the senses.
The romantic old-style Italian setting with dimly lit candles and racks of wine is every lovers’ dream, and a welcoming staff with scratch made food makes everyone feel at home.
Chef and owner Alain Fournier opened the Italian style café 20 years ago, with a menu featuring a variety of authentic Italian dishes and wines. Fournier created his original menu without any formal culinary training.
Instead Fournier learned from his experienced family in France before coming to America, according to general manager April Grainger.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Grainger said. “He uses all fresh ingredients, fresh pasta and he’s even started making his own homemade sausages.”
Fournier’s menu features many delectable dishes including his famous Pollo Marsala, a combination of tender chicken, creamy marsala wine sauce, toasted almonds for crunch, and wild mushrooms over scratch made spinach fettuccine.
The Pollo Marsala is the most frequently ordered dish, according to café server Jenn Freese.
Another signature dish on Fournier’s menu is the Penne Explosive, a mixture of Italian pork sausage, fresh tomatoes and penne pasta in a spicy, yet herbaceous, white wine sauce topped with fresh cilantro.
The rest of the menu consists of traditional Italian dishes and appetizers, including bruschetta, homemade toasted garlic bread topped with vibrant red tomatoes, minced garlic, and julienned basil for a touch of green and extra freshness.
For those craving something sweet, the menu includes a classic tiramisu and frozen assorted Italian gelatos.
Wine enthusiasts will not be disappointed at Caffé Allegro.
The restaurant offers a variety of over 50 diverse imported wines, ranging from a sweet white chardonnay to tart red Chianti.
A family oriented atmosphere and a friendly staff keep customers coming back, according to regulars Cathy and George Anderson, who are from Fontana.
“We come here all the time,” Cathy Anderson said. “The food is amazing and fresh; it’s also a romantic date night place for us.”
According to Grainger, who has worked at Caffé Allegro for eight years, 75 percent of their customers are regulars who have fallen in love with the traditional homemade Italian cuisine and family feel.
“We care about each other and we are a great team,” Grainger said. “Customers know that.”
Fournier is a great boss who is very professional and compassionate, according to Freese, who has been working at the café for four months now.
“I have worked in restaurants for 10 years and this is by far the best restaurant I’ve worked at,” Freese said.
“Alain makes everyone feel so welcomed and loved. The customers and staff all feel like family,” Freese said.
Twelve years after opening Caffé Allegro in La Verne, Fournier opened a second restaurant in Upland that includes a wood-burning oven and full bar. The lunch prices range from $8 to $22 and the dinner prices range from $7 to $32.
Now Fournier is in the process of opening his third restaurant located in the Claremont Village, and plans to open many more restaurants in the future. The new restaurant will be called The Village and will serve French and Italian food.
Karleigh Neff can be reached at email@example.com.