Boston’s North End: where the buildings get more brick and the food gets a whole lot more Italian. Most city-goers know that the North End is the place to get the perfect cannoli or a meatball just like Grandma used to make them. Most everyone has their token spot for a lovely dinner, however if you have yet to visit Lucca Restaurant & Bar on Hanover Street, you haven’t quite seen everything.
Upon entering Lucca it is as though you are being transported through time. The rustic charm of the restaurant’s stony walls, stained glass arches and crisp, white table cloths exudes everything that is right with traditional Italian culture. The wait-staff is just as old school as the venue itself, dressed in head to toe black, filling your glasses before they are even empty and clearing the way swiftly for patrons as they walk around.
Sitting down in Lucca, ordering a glass of wine seemed fitting particularly because they carry a vast selection from Napa Valley all the way to Tuscany. The Simi Sauvignon Blanc was a delightful precursor to the rich meal that was ahead. However, if wine is not your preferred drink, the cocktail menu features creative concoctions such as the Red Hook Manhattan, an expert mix of Bulleit Rye and Luxardo maraschino liqueur.
If you are looking to do your Italian dinner right and enjoy more than just one course, the Mussels, Salumi and Risotto appetizers come highly recommended. The mussels are cooked in a traditional white wine, garlic and shallot sauce. The twist on this classic: cubed chorizo adds an entire new depth of flavor and texture. The risotto is a delicious choice during the summer; Maine crab combined with lemon, summer corn, and, most importantly, bacon, makes for a fresh starter. The salumi is as traditional as it gets with the chef’s choice of cured meats and olives that will have you begging for more prosciutto.
The dinner menu is one page and it doesn’t need to be more than that. Quality trumps quantity, as Lucca offers thirteen pristinely prepared entrees.
The Baked Orecchiette, a sausage dish with broccoli rabe and finished off with toasted bread crumbs is rich with a top layer of crunch. The Pork tenderloin is seasoned with coriander and served with grilled peaches and white polenta, which proves to be as light as it is tender. The Lamb and Filet dishes are prepared masterfully as well. If you are more of a seafood eater, the Scallops are some of the biggest you can find anywhere, and guess what? They cook them with bacon, too!
While every dish was truly noteworthy, there are two that stand out. The Gnocchi with Wild Boar is ideal for those with a large appetite. The gnocchi is everything a gnocchi should be; Fluffy, soft, and yet filling. The boar is a creative addition providing yet another perfect cut of meat from the Lucca kitchen.
Then there is the Lobster Cavatelli, an unparalleled menu item. The dish contains a generous portion of Maine lobster, beautiful cavatelli, grape tomatoes, summer corn, and of course, Applewood smoked bacon. Both plates are true stars so be sure to try at least one during your next visit.
Putting some minor twists on the classics that make Italian food special, Lucca reminds their patrons what authentic pasta and prosciutto should taste like. And if they can incorporate bacon into their cuisine, well, that is just a plus. So next time grandma isn’t in the mood to cook bring her to Lucca, where it will still taste just like home.