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25 E. Main street
Alleia reviewed by CHARLIE
(Editor’s note: Eat It Tennessee is pleased to welcome Charlie to the ranks of EIT reviewers. We hope that he will continue to contribute when he is able. If you would like to contribute a review, please contact us here.)
As you walk through the massive wooden doors of Alleia Restaurant in downtown Chattanooga, you enter into an upscale restaurant that is dimly lit with a beautiful interior. It is located on East Main Street near Market Street which is quickly becoming one of the hippest foodie areas in the city after recent urban revitalization of old shops, hotels and other businesses in the historic district.
I lived in Chattanooga for four years from 1999 to 2002 and was pleasantly surprised to see how it has grown in the last nine years especially the city’s restaurant scene. I was in town for a job interview and had reached out to a few friends who still live there about catching up over dinner since I hadn’t seen any of them in about four years. I am lucky to have friends like Jessica, Kathryn, Eric and Mandy who know where to find some of the best food in town.
Over dinner, they told me that chef Daniel Lindley, a Chattanooga native, has earned a lot of recognition for his work both at St. John’s Restaurant in Chattanooga and Alleia from the James Beard Foundation as well as national publications like Southern Living and the New York Times. He has a pretty impressive resume of restaurant work as well.
Jessica and Kathryn had already ordered the two featured bruschetta appetizers by the time that I arrived at Alleia and they showed up as I was sitting down. The Wildwood Farms blueberry and mozzarella bruschetta topped with prosciutto ($7 – on the left) was the seasonal/’daily special’ bruschetta and the Sun Gold tomato bruschetta with pesto ($7 – on the right) is on the menu although I think they also change their menu seasonally.
Kathryn ordered the pici ($17) with braised pork and stagionato. Pici, pronounced “PEE-chee”, is thick, hand-rolled pasta made from flour and water that originates in the province of Siena in Tuscany. Stagionato, which I found out after Google-ing, is “a centuries-old table cheese from Tuscany” and proved to add a lot of flavor to the dish. Katherine let me try a bite of her pici which was a new type of pasta for me. It was cooked al dente which gave the entire dish a nice, chewy consistency as opposed to the sloppiness that over sauced, limp noodled pasta dishes can have. I really dug this dish from the one bite that I tried and will probably order it the next time I see it on the menu anywhere.
I ordered the wood fired pork shoulder ($19) which was served with grilled peaches and balsamic. This dish was also accompanied with some potatoes and braised purple cabbage. The pork shoulder was cooked perfectly and fell apart each time I tried to separate it with the fork but the taste off all the cabbage, peach and pork together was unforgettable. I was told that the wood fired pork shoulder is always on the menu but the sides and accompaniments change seasonally.
Eric and Mandy decided to an appetizer dinner. They ordered the pancetta wrapped dates covered in aged balsamic ($8 – above) and the grass fed beef Carpaccio with parmesan, arugula and white truffle oil ($11 – below). They offered to let my try a bite of each of their appetizers but I had to politely decline because the pork shoulder had fazed me and wasn’t sure if I could eat another bite and wanted to make sure that I could finish the Dos Perros Ale from Yazoo Brewing Company out of Nashville that I was drinking. The presentation of both of these appetizers was amazing and I will no doubt order at least one of them when I go back to Alleia next time.
Be aware that Alleia Restaurant is only open for dinner and closed on Sundays. Their hours are 5:00pm until 9:30pm on Mondays through Thursdays and 5:00pm until 10:00pm on Fridays & Saturdays. Alleia is the perfect date restaurant with great wine options as well as a romantic, dimly lit ambiance. The restaurant is a little upscale but guys can probably get away with wearing a Polo and khakis during the week and a button-up and slacks during the weekend.
It is a bit expensive but I think it is well worth the experience. Their pizza is fair priced ($11-$15) and it is quickly prepared in their 750 degree oven if you aren’t interested in spending much money or time out for dinner. Jessica got the pizza but I wasn’t able to snag a good picture of it with my phone. You would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t go to Alleia if you are in Chattanooga. The food is delicious and the laid back yet upscale dining environment is quite a find.