Friday, July 18, 2008
Chef Crush sent me to Lucca. I confess, I do follow the site. The next best thing to checking out hottie cooks in person is to see them through the eyes of the Chef Crush Girls!
Lucca hasn't really been on my radar. There's plenty of Italian restaurants in Portland, after all, and there have been a couple of restaurants in Lucca's spot that have failed, so I'm used to ignoring that corner as I go by.
One night Bf and I were thinking about going out somewhere casual and cheap, and I was surfing the interwebs as usual, trying to get an idea of somewhere different to go. Somehow I landed on Chef Crush, and immediately saw people I knew: Mike and Jordan from Ten 01. Yay for those cuties! On the second page, there he was, the ultimate blast from the past: Kjell from Lucca. Junior year in high school, my friend Beth and I took two brothers to our semi-formal dance at St. Mary's Academy: Kai and Kjell (pronounced "Chell"). In the Chef Crush pic, Kjell is standing in front of the wood-burning pizza oven. Okay, so I knew where we were dining that night.
Lucca is situated on the corner of NE 24th and Fremont. Six patio tables provide a quiet spot to enjoy your food outside. The main dining room and bar are divided by a low wall, with two-tops lining the bar side of the wall, where Bf and I sat. Right in front of the pizza oven, in fact. You may think this was my doing, but no, this was the hostess' whimsy. I just have good luck like that.
Right away I saw that Kjell was indeed working the pizza station that evening. Of course I had to go over right away and say hi, I haven't seen you since I was 16, but here's a picture of that dance we went to, remember? Of course he did remember me and we had a chance to catch up. Ahh, memories!
So on to the food. The menu is simple and broken into categories: Antipasti, Soups and Salads, Mains, Pizza, Pasta, Sides. Okay, that's a lot of categories, but there are only a few options under each and it all fits on one page.
We bypassed apps and had a cocktail each instead. I ordered the chopped salad (romaine, radicchio, crostini, pine nuts, Rogue Creamery blue cheese vinaigrette) and we ended up sharing it. Very flavorful.
For mains, Brian ordered the Bucatini and Meatballs while I just had to have a pizza. I chose the Arrabbiata and added sausage.
The pizza was fabulous. The only thing I would change would be a little more browning/char on the bottom. That's it. The crust was thin and mostly crispy with a good flavor, the sauce accented the toppings and was of the proper amount, and the cheese was that absolutely perfect melty consistency. To tell the truth I have been craving it ever since!
Brian's bucatini was ok, but I thought the sauce needed more salt and herbs. And maybe wine. The meatballs were tasty, though.
Verdict: Will return to Lucca in heartbeat for the pizza and salad. And cute boys.
3449 NE 24th Ave (at Fremont)
Portland, OR 97212
Open for dinner Tues-Thurs 5-10 PM, Fri-Sat 5-11 PM, Sun 5-9 PM
Newly open for lunch Tues-Fri 11:30-2 PM
And for brunch Sat-Sun (no hours on website)