There’s something about Allegro that makes you feel at home. It’s a beloved spot for Carmel families, and owner Jeano Abraham is a big believer in creating a great work environment for local kids. He also just wants to make good pizza, and offers his number on each receipt with an encouragement to call if something isn’t good.

Everything is pretty good, but not always excellent.

Ranch dressing on a nice yeasty crust with a little garlic butter patted on top serves as the foundation for a chicken pizza with bacon, onion and tomato. Onions add a sweet bite to the savory meat, while the cheddar and mozzarella mix came thick and melty. Bacon had potential to add some desired saltiness, but it was a little too overcooked on one recent occasion to contribute much of its smoky flavor. And the ranch itself was a bit lost under everything else.

Grilled skirt steak fettuccine alfredo is mild, with a subtle herby character. A heap of steak adds some smokey char and a fun deviation from the more common chicken alfredo. The only thing missing was garlic in the cream sauce – which would have given the basic sauce a little more interest – and a side salad that never showed up.

The baked artichoke stuffed with seasoned bread crumbs seemed an appetizing way to go for starters. Unfortunately, the single little ’choke offered only the heart – the best part for sure, but hardly much to munch on. Breadcrumbs stuffed in between the ends of the leftover leaves were basically impossible to get to.

A garlicky aioli added flavor, but there was much more condiment than vegetable on the plate.

Not all can be remedied by chocolate lava cake, but dessert definitely helps. Warm and spongy, the indulgent cake released a river of rich chocolate.

Abraham prides himself on quality ingredients, and I sensed that perhaps it was just an off day. Minus some light ’60s jams, the place was pretty quiet for a weekend as we cozied up by the fire.

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After leaving, the mediocrity of the rest of the meal haunted me. The pie was good, I just had a feeling that things could be better. My hunch on this occasion was proven right when I picked up pizza for takeout a couple weeks later.

Allegro’s Hawaiian-style pizza delivered just enough ham and pineapple for the perfect balance of sweet and meat. On the other side of the pie, plain cheese showed off surprising character. With no toppings to hide under, the tomatoes of the sauce jumped out brightly, with the cheese a delicate indulgence on top.

And there are options like the creative Thai Pie, topped with chicken and cilantro – over peanut sauce. It’s a reminder that Abraham is changing up the menu with both unexpected and homey additions (word is the ribs are going to be memorable).

Much like eating at home, it doesn’t always come out perfect. And if that happens to be your experience here, you can’t call mom – but you can call Jeano.

ALLEGRO GOURMET PIZZERIA 3770 The Barnyard, Carmel. 11:30am-9pm Mon-Thu; 11:30am-9:30pm Fri-Sat; 12-9pm Sun. 626-5454,

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