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Wow. This is swank.

Sora (655 West Broadway, downtown, 619-564-7100).

I’ve come in for happy hour. Thursdays and Fridays, you buy a drink, you get free food, like pasta and pizzas and edamame. Choice is not surprising since Sora is all about fusing Italian and Japanese food.

The chef is Noriyoshi Teruya, from no lesser place than Nobu.

So I came in, around 5:30 p.m. just to be sure I was in HH time, looked around at the pink and metal and wood décor, and wondered if I’d bitten off too much this time.

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The Japanese sign for "Sora," which means "Sky."

“Happy hour? You have to go to the back, where you can see the kitchen,” says the welcomer.

Ho-kay. So I take the long journey through the tables, around the big square bar, and to an alcove facing windows that look through to the cooks.

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On a kinda high table there they have the remains of, like, three smallish pizzas, two of them chestnut and romanesco (Italian broccoli) and one with gorgonzola and tomato sauce. In between they have a couple of bowls of pasta and another of edamame.

But, turns out, you can sit at the big square bar, too.

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The pizza has a nice crust that’s thin but not too thin. Like, not cracker-hard, but not doughy either. And that chestnut-broccoli combo is good, too. Best though: pungent gorgonzola pizza.

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One at a time: this is the chestnut and romanesco pizza

Plus, hey, it’s free, which makes the $8 glass of wine (no happy hour drink prices. And rule is, no drink, no eat) seem a lot more reasonable.

And I luck out with the wine. It’s rough, earthy, flavorful. Nero d’Avola. ($8). “It’s from Sicily,” says Nicolae, the place’s wine guy, “a very ancient wine. The grapes are so dark they look black. That’s why they call it ‘Nero.’”

Must say: Nero brings the pizzas to life. You feel the taste get richer with each gulp.

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Gorgonzola and tomato pasta. Most gone. Shoulda come earlier

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Edamame

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Pasta

But what I most notice is Bek...

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...their expert mixologist from New Yawk City, here at the bar. This lady is a high priestess of today’s raging cocktail cult. What do I know about cocktails? Niente. Nada. But I got a whiff of a liqueur she's pouring called St. Germain. French.

Mmm. Smell it, you think of lychee. Actually made from elderberry flowers. She makes a cocktail she calls "Flower Drum Song," with sake, soju, lemon and the St Germain. Sounds dee-lish.

Coming back. Next time, no wine, just this $9 liqueur and a glass of water.

And some free pizza, natch.

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The happy hour weekly menu

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