Great Italian—times two

Photo by David Robert

Let’s just say the restaurant-reviewing process went a bit awry this week.

First, our scheduled restaurant reviewer had a last-minute emergency, meaning that he couldn’t do the review. We didn’t learn about this until Monday, when Luciano’s is closed. Seeing as Mike Price has been harassing me about doing lunch at Luciano’s for quite some time, I seized the opportunity and set up a Tuesday lunch. However, the photos had already been taken for the review, meaning the restaurant was tipped off. And Mike arrived at the restaurant before I did and blew my cover completely while he chatted with one of the restaurant’s co-owners.

Oh, well. Regardless, there’s a review that needs to be done.

Unlike the original Luciano’s on South Virginia Street, where tables are so close that guests are practically on top of each other, the sequel restaurant is much more open. The walls are a mixture of white and a painted-on brick pattern; various works of art and framed Italian advertising posters dot the walls, along with various painted dishes. And unlike Einsteins Quantum Café, which called this location home before going out of business, Luciano’s was busy on this day. Except for a phone with a loud, annoying ring, the atmosphere is very relaxed.

We settled into our seats and dove into the tasty fresh bread. My bread-eating experience was a bit derailed by the fact that my bread plate had a big, greasy smudge on it. The bread plate next to mine (this was a table set for four) had no such greasy spots, so I used it instead.

I decided to get the Raviolacci Alla Salvia, otherwise known as veal ravioli in butter sage sauce ($8.50 lunch, $13.95 dinner), along with a bowl of the Brodo Di Pollo Con Pastina, aka soup with tiny pasta in chicken consomme ($3.50). Mike, a Luciano’s regular, chose the Fettuccine Verdi All’Ortolana, or the spinach fettuccine tossed with fresh vegetables and herbs (7.95, $11.95), with a salad with gorgonzola dressing ($3.95).

The South Virginia Street Luciano’s is known for having some of, if not the best, Italian food around. I am glad to say the food translated just fine to the Lakeside Drive location.

My soup was vibrant and tasty, as little, rice-sized bits of pasta mixed with the chicken soup base. It was a little bland for my spice-crazy taste buds, but it tasted undeniably fresh. Mike’s mixed greens were garden fresh, and his creamy, tangy gorgonzola dressing made me wish I had chosen the salad instead of the soup.

We continued yakking, now about the sorry state of mainstream journalism, as we waited for the main courses. They took just a tad longer than I expected, but they were well worth the wait.

Mike took one bite of his fettuccine, and he started raving. He drafted me into taking a bite before I could even get a good whiff of my ravioli. It was fantastic—the vegetables were fresh and the pasta and spices were a perfect blend.

My ravioli were divine. The ground veal in the perfectly cooked ravioli complemented the light, oily sage sauce. There were only five ravioli on my plate, and I am a big eater, but trust me—they were rich and filling.

Mike and I were full, but knowing we could not review a restaurant properly without dessert, we indulged for the good of the team. I chose the raspberry cheesecake, while Mike got the chocolate decadence cake (each $3.95).

“This should be illegal!” Mike said. His cake was extremely rich—it made my cheesecake seem light in comparison. The cheesecake, too, was delicious, with more raspberry flavor than cheesecake flavor, perfectly complemented by the graham cracker crust.

I admit I was worried about a decrease in quality when I saw Luciano’s had opened a second location. I am worried no more. This was a fine dining experience, every bit comparable to the original location. Except that the phone is more annoying.