Allora Hospitality is the culmination of countless years of hard work, planning, risks, failures, and successes. It is the manifestation of a dream once thought to be unattainable.
That dream began at the tender age of 13, when Marcello De Feo sat down and planned out his first restaurant. In his notebook, he sketched out a floor plan, wrote out a menu, and created a list of recipes.
He never bothered to create a name or a logo. Rather, he dreamt about the experience. He cared about everyone having a good time, feeling special, and also feeling full, like they just finished Sunday family dinner at Nonna’s house.
Family was the key to him. Growing up in restaurants, he spent so much time with his coworkers that they began to feel like family. He wanted the diners to feel that say way; comfortable, familiar, appreciated, and at home.
De Feo worked in restaurants every year from the age of 11 until he graduated college and volunteered a year of service in Americorps. Under their rules, volunteers were unable to have second jobs or any supplemental income. Leaving his restaurant family behind felt like losing a loved one.
Since then, he had brief stints in a variety of restaurants, always dreaming of having his own place some day.
After being accepted into the Culinary Arts program at Johnson & Wales for the second time but being unable to attend, De Feo began laying the groundwork for his first business.
He knew he wanted to do something to honor the memory of his late mother but was unsure of exactly how. In the latter part of 2016, after his Nonna — a second mom to him — passed away, his vision became clear and his resolve unstoppable. That vision was Valente’s Italian Specialties, a corner store like the ones from his childhood in South Philly, where he could make the rustic cuisine of his matriarch’s roots in Abruzzo.
The first iteration of that business was as a mobile vendor and caterer. He spent his mornings attending farmers markets, his afternoons looking for the perfect brick and mortar location, and his nights cooking for the markets, often until the early hours of the morning.
The brick and mortar opened a year later right off the main strip of Downtown Haddonfield in Kings Court. The business evolved over time from that initial concept to a destination for prepared meals. It became evident that this point that a transition to a full-service restaurant was the next logical step.
Days before the COVID shutdown hit, construction began on the transition from Valente’s Italian Specialties to Valente’s Cucina. The restaurant opened with courtyard seating and a simple, rustic menu.
That October, Executive Chef Johnnie Reynolds joined Valente’s. De Feo quickly recognized his talent and stepped out of the kitchen, giving Reynolds virtually complete control over the menu. Reynolds ran with it, elevating the menu to one of refined Italian, French, and modern European influences.
Prior to this transition, De Feo began outlining an idea for a burger place, something he felt that Haddonfield was sorely missing. He partnered up with Walter Gouldsbury (Crumb) and Ben Gibson (Pop Chart) to form Founder & Signer. Later, David Murray (Denim, Crumb) joined the team.
F&S was a pop up that attended the Haddonfield Farmers Market and catered events. While it quickly gained a strong following, the business was pushed to the back burner after being unable to secure a brick and mortar location prior to the beginning of COVID.
The idea was revived with Chef Reynolds as a partner and The Fare Porter was created. The restaurant opened in March of 2022.
Currently, Valente’s Italian Specialties is in the process of reopening across from its original spot in Kings Court in the former Information Center.
After building multiple concepts, Allora Hospitality was created as the corporate entity that provided an array of management services to its subsidiaries. De Feo and Reynolds moved up to run this company so that they could assist each business.
Shortly thereafter, Allora hired Executive Sous Chef Dylan Sweeney, whose track record of success and impressive résumé quickly won over the Allora team. He is currently finishing up a stint working with Chef Peter Serpico before officially joining the team in May.
Our aim is to build up Downtown Haddonfield by creating concepts that bring something new and unique to the area, rounding out an already diverse and impressive small town main street.
We are here today because of the support we received from others along the way. Now, it is time to pay it forward and offer advice to budding food & beverage entrepreneurs looking for guidance.
We live in this community. Our children are growing up in this community. We want to support the youth of our community however and whenever we can.
As part of our mission to build up the downtown, we offer consulting services to new and existing businesses to provide them with the support that they might need.