OPINION: Escape the Office for a Patio Lunch

Allora Ristorante serves guests Mediterranean and Italian dishes on a waterfront-facing patio.

You catch glimpses from the office window of yet another perfect fall day. Perhaps your skin briefly feels the warmth of the sun as you hop in and out of the car to grab a quick sandwich. Fall is a favorite season among New Englanders and should not be experienced through a pane of glass. Grab some colleagues and escape the office for a leisure lunch on the patio of .

The restaurant's patio is situated so that patrons can gaze across Williams Lake while sipping on a glass of Chardonnay or nibbling on fried calamari. Although busy Lakeside Avenue snakes between the restaurant and the lake, the traffic provides quiet background noise, aside from the occasional rumbling 18-wheeler.

Allora's lunch menu prices are as varied as the available dishes (but beware that a diet soda costs $3). Begin the meal with an order of grilled brushetta. No complaints can be made of tiny portion sizes, as can be the case at upscale restaurants. Four large slices of bread act as the foundation for delicious heaps of diced tomatoes, Vermont goat cheese, fresh basil, olive oil and a balsamic reduction that leaves a lingering sweetness on the tongue ($8.99).

The BLT was ordered out of sheer curiosity of spotting such a classic yet uninteresting sandwich on the menu. The guest had hoped Allore had found some fabulous way to spice up an otherwise dull sandwich. The BLT tasted good, but was unfortunately just a typical BLT, the guest noted with some disappointment ($7.99).

But if craving a sandwich, you will not be disappointed by the grilled chicken panini. Thin slices of chicken are intertwined with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, pesto aioli and melted Grafton cheddar ($9.99) in a sandwich large enough for two meals (with the help of an appetizer).

The combination of a friendly and attentive staff and a casual yet upscale atmosphere created a dining experience that felt relaxed, but still as if one was being pampered. Click here to view the full lunch menu, along with other available menus.

Allora is located at 139 Lakeside Avenue, Marlborough. For reservations, call 508-485-4300.

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