A hunger-inducing conversation

The following discussion took place via e-mail on the night of June 22, 2000, between Rob Tocalino, RN&R food reviewer, and Catherine Atkins, Western Lit coordinator and distribution manager for the paper.

RT: For starters, Catherine, what did you think of Luciano’s when you walked in? Cozy is a word that comes to mind.

CA: The small, almost cluttered restaurant felt authentically Italian and distinctly non-American with its smart use of floor and wall space.

RT: Yeah, they do maximize, don’t they? Speaking of which, the menu felt much the same to me. It was a smart arrangement of good, solid Italian cooking. You wouldn’t really need to look very far to find something appealing. But then there’s this whole board of tremendous-sounding specials that just hangs there on the wall, so colorful that you’d almost feel guilty ordering something off the black and white menu.

But we did anyway. Let’s start with the appetizer, insalata caprese ($5.95). How did you like it?

CA: The fresh mozzarella—so light and creamy—sent me straight back to Italy. Everything was just right—and ripe.

RT: Yeah, that was the perfect starter dish. After the appetizer—which was delivered immediately, as was our wine, a Campanile Pinot Grigio ($5.50) and an Atlas Peak Sangiovese ($6.50)—our entrees were in front of us. Which was a good thing, considering the portions. It took a while to get through my tortellini papalini ($12.95), one of the specials on the wall. But you bravely went for the old standby, spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs ($11.95). Tell me all about it.

CA: The serving was enormous—and beautiful. Two massive meatballs swimming in a thick, luscious sauce covered what seemed like a serving-platter size dish of spaghetti. The pasta was perfect; the sauce tasted as good as it looked, and the spices in the meatballs were heavenly, especially the rosemary and sage.

RT: Yeah, and you nearly finished the whole thing. I couldn’t get enough of my tortellini, either. Filled with meat, they were cooked perfectly. A light cream sauce that truly was light covered them with chunks of prosciutto and peas floating about. I did finish the whole plate, and though I’m awfully full right now, I don’t regret a bite.

I might have gone a little too far on dessert, however. My panecotta ($3.95) just touched with a light raspberry sauce was deceptively smooth. This is a pile of cream, right? But I couldn’t stop eating it. By choosing panecotta, I had to skip my beloved tiramisú ($3.95). Thankfully, you covered for me and even gave me a bite. How did you like what I left for you?

CA: At the end of the day, it’s the tiramisú that matters. It was divine. Tiramisú has a lot going on, so it’s a true demonstration of culinary talent to make one so delicious. Also, the piece was huge, thank God, because (let’s face it) anybody who orders it must share!

RT: So, we’ve covered the food, the wine, the dessert. As for the service, it seemed very European to me as well. Efficient and friendly but never pandering.

CA: The service was a wonderful mix of business-like brusqueness and here’s-a-little-more-freshly-ground-Parmesan-for-you courtesy. It was good service because it made me feel like I was being served—not treated kindly in hopes of a nice tip. This place is doing it right: great food, service and atmosphere.