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Happy hour italian style

It's 5 p.m., or thereabouts, on a weekday. You close up shop/leave the office/put down the paintbrush and head to a place that has a drink with your name on it. You don't want a pint in a noisy bar or an appletini at a scenester den. You want, perhaps, a simple glass of dry prosecco and some cheese or salami to nibble on before dinner. In other words, you want a taste of Italian happy hour.

That's what Paolo Parrilli plans to re-create at Caffe Allora, a tiny cafe and wine bar in the Honeyman Hardware Lofts. Parrilli is aiming to open the 1,200-square-foot cafe the first week of December, but after daydreaming about a place of his own for five years, he'll be satisfied even if Caffe Allora doesn't open until January.

After 11 years managing Torrefazione Italia shops in Portland and San Francisco, Parrilli is eager to do his own thing and bring some of his Northern Italy to Northwest Portland. He says Caffe Allora will be similar to 'a cafe that Italians have on a daily basis.'

The menu, prepared by Parrilli, will be spare: Italian cheeses and meats, some dishes focusing on fish, pork and vegetables, and various bruschetta ('not broo-sheh-ta, I hate it when people say that. It's broo-skeh-ta,' Parrilli says).

Parilli's small cache of wine will be mostly Italian, but he'll also carry some of the good Oregon pinot noir and California sauvignon blanc that he's grown fond of while living stateside. During the day, Caffe Allora will serve coffee, pastries (some, such as traditional Italian walnut cake, fruit tarts and zucchini bread, handmade by Parrilli), sandwiches and soup. Will Parrilli pour Torrefazione coffee?

He hesitates. 'I think so. There's a lot of good coffee out there, I have to figure it out,' he says.

One cue Parrilli won't take from his longtime employer is design. 'After 11 years with painted tiles, I'm sick and tired of seeing them,' he says of Torrefazione's signature ceramics. No, Parrilli is going modern with Caffe Allora, doing it up in black and white and a few blasts of carefully chosen color.

'I need to be a little more fashionable for the Pearl District,' he says.

Parrilli guards against giving away too much information about Allora. 'My intention is to surprise everyone,' he says.

Sounds like it will be a pleasant one.

Caffe Allora will open at 504 N.W. Ninth Ave. Hours will be

7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.