At Lucca, it’s the food that really shines.
Maybe that’s because the restaurant itself is so minimalist, with exposed brick walls on both sides of the long and narrow space. Or the white tablecloths, which make colorful dishes of pasta and soup pop.
Maybe, it’s that Lucca’s chef, Stephen Logsdon, actually keeps it simple. The dishes stand out because they’re full of flavors that don’t compete, but enhance.
We stopped by Lucca on a Thursday over the lunch hour and were greeted by a softly-played grand piano. It’s a semi-formal spot, evidenced by the number of blazers, slacks and dresses we saw, without the stuffy feel. After a nod to the pianist, we ordered our lunch at the sleek white counter, poured our own water and tea, and seated ourselves. Lucca’s lunch system is slick and relaxed, making it a perfect spot for a business lunch or noon date.
I tried the spinach and ricotta pasta. Thick tubes of rigatoni were cooked al dente, sprinkled with creamy ricotta and tossed with sauteed spinach, then covered in a fantastically homemade, light marinara. The dish was earthy but not too hearty, making it a nice choice for lunch.
My dining partner opted for the green olive and marinara, a heaping mound of perfectly cooked spaghetti noodles tossed in the same light marinara sauce with thin-sliced green olives, and topped with fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. He said the dish was flavorful, and liked that the marinara was more of a thin sauce that coated all of the noodles, verses a thicker sauce that sometimes sits on top of a bed of pasta.
We couldn’t resist the soup of the day — vegetable — after the hostess told us it was one of the restaurant’s best sellers. We could see why. The blend of tender-crisp veggies in a warm, well-seasoned broth was a perfect start to the meal.
The service at Lucca is friendly and knowledgeable. The kitchen is small and open, shedding light on the simple practices behind the counter. Stop by for a flavorful and satisfying lunch the next time you’re in the East Village, and relish in the expertly prepared, gracefully plated food. If you’re able to stop by for dinner, Logsdon prepares a two-course prix fixe dinner which changes nightly.
Find it: 420 E. Locust St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Info: 243-1115; luccarestaurant.net
Spinach and ricotta pasta ... $8.95
Green olive and marinara ... $8.95
Vegetable soup ... $5.95
Iced tea ... $1.95
Total, with tax and tip: $31