WHAT I ATE: This intimate Brandon restaurant boasts a menu packed with traditional, if somewhat expected, Italian favorites.
I opted for the fettuccini alla giovanna, Allegria Italiana's take on classic fettuccini alfredo with grilled chicken, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and a white wine and Parmesan cream sauce.
My dinner date, never one to shy away from a hearty meal, went with a solid brick of house-made lasagna, with a side meatball and sausage.
We started the meal with zuppa di mussels, fresh mussels in a garlic, white wine and tomato brodetto, and ended with a bite or two of a cannoli.
WHAT IT COST: The mussels starter was $11, the fettuccini alla giovanna $17, the lasagna di carne $15 and the cannoli $4. Portions are generous, and even after eating our fill we had plenty for lunch the next day.
WHAT I THOUGHT: The menu is nothing innovative, but what elevates the dishes is a dedication to fresh, quality ingredients bursting with flavor.
The fettuccini was cooked to a flawless al dente and the creamy Parmesan sauce provided the perfect counterpart to snappy spears of broccoli and zesty sun-dried tomatoes. The lasagna was everything you expect in a comfort food: soft, cheesy and filling.
Tucked away in an old-school strip mall, Allegria Italiana could easily be overlooked for one of the many chains dominating the Brandon food scene. Yet once inside the dimly lit dining room, warmly decorated with old-school black-and-white photos and Venetian frescos, the exterior and location become an afterthought.
Allegria boasts an extensive, if a bit pricy, wine list that starts around $7.50 a glass and offers soft, warm bread while you wait. With only a handful of tables to worry about, servers were fast, attentive and knowledgeable about the menu.
The intimate atmosphere and reasonably priced dishes make Allegria Italiana a worthy locally owned option to break up the monotony of chain dining.
It's nothing cutting edge or extraordinary, but a perfect option for diners looking for a cozy Italian meal that tastes and looks just like you expect it to.
Times staff writer Anastasia Dawson