Lucca is an Italian restaurant in the North End that opened a second location in the Back Bay in 2010 (where I ate). Pasta dishes range from $23-$36 and main courses or “secondi” range from $28-$38. However, a bar menu is offered, which is slightly different from the main dinning room, but is less expensive, with prices ranging from $11-$20.
My girlfriends and I decided to eat here during Restaurant Week. While we waited for our table to be ready we had a drink at the bar. The martini’s were strong, and the margaritas were sour. We were at an Italian restaurant, we should have known better then to order margaritas. The wine list offers a nice selection of not only Italian wines, but wines from South America and the West Coast. Glasses are priced $7-$14.
Unlike many restaurants, Lucca offered the entire menu during restaurant week. But here’s the catch – many items had an additional charge of $2- $12. We all decided to stick to the options included in the $38.13 restaurant week price. Luckily, there were 4 – 5 appetizer and entrée choices without an up-charge.
Lucca does not have gluten free bread, and I wish I had known to bring my own. All my friends raved about the white bean and garlic dip that was served with the it. Don’t make the same mistake I did, BYOB – Bring Your Own Bread.
For my meal, I started with the Calamari con caponata. The Point Judith calamari were sautéed with eggplant, peppers, olives, tomato, red onion, oregano and balsamic vinegar. This was one of the best calamari dishes I think I’ve had anywhere. The calamari was plentiful and cooked perfectly. The sauce had a slight spiciness to it. This dish was fantastic, I highly recommend ordering it. Not only that, but sauteing is much healthier than frying, and it is gluten free!
For my entrée I had gluten free penne pasta tossed with a Bolognese sauce of ground beef, veal and pork with mascarpone and Parmesan. I forgot, don’t ask me how, to ask for it without the cheese. This new dairy free diet is hard to remember! Luckily, there was not a lot of cheese in the dish. I enjoyed my meal, but I expected more. For $38, a bigger portion and more flavorful would have been nice. I might be being too critical, but when I am spending that much on a meal I expect to be blown me away. It was a solid dish and I am not complaining, I just think I had higher expectations, especially after my appetizer. Many, but not all, of the pasta dishes can be substituted with gluten free pasta.
My friend Kristen ordered the Pollo saltimbocca; a Roasted Statler chicken with prosciutto di Parma and sage, Marsala sauce, caramelized onion, spinach and potato hash. The chicken was moist and nicely seasoned. There wasn’t that much sauce, which I like personally, and Kristen didn’t seem to care about. The portion size, and that of my friend Katie’s salmon, were on the smaller side.
For dessert there were only two options – Panna cotta and Tiramisu. The Tiramisu was to die for. The espresso pastry cream and whipped mascarpone had a light airy texture, which didn’t make it feel as rich as it was. I couldn’t put my spoon down, it was that mouth watering good. I did not try the ladyfingers but I could not stop eating the creamy goodness! I ordered the vanilla flavored panna cotta, which is served with an orange marmalade and mint. I liked the vanilla flavor, but it was incredibly rich I could only eat a few bites. If you are a fan of creamy desserts try this one. If you prefer chocolate, like me, get the tiramisu.
We had a great server. She was sweet, patient, and incredibly knowledgeable about the menu. She was able to answer all our questions, and explain the dishes to us. The entire wait staff was professional and outstanding. After paying the bill we stayed and chatted, got another round of drinks, all the while not realizing the time until someone looked around and noticed we were the only ones there! Even though we were the last table to leave at 11:30pm, we did not feel rushed or pressured at all.
$38.13 is not so bad for a 3 course meal here, but for a 20-something year old it’s not something I do all the time, and I just wish the portion sizes had been bigger. But, we did enjoy our meals. we left nothing on the table except empty plates and napkins.
The menu is pricey, but the bar menu offers smaller portions at reasonable prices with the same great flavors. A dollar snack menu is available in the lounge from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. And Wednesday night is dollar oyster night, but the Oysters sell out often so come early. Eating at the bar sounds like the prefect way to sample a delicious, high quality menu without having to pay the high prices.