Every once in a while, Diva#1 and Sweet Pea take a day off of work and have a day that begins with Lucca and continues with shopping downtown and roaming around for hours. Not early risers, our day begins at lunch. On this day, we were meeting Sweet Pea’s dad and a friend. Often times we also meet Sweet Pea’s P’tit Soeur…who is not sweet at all.
Open since 1999, Ristorante Lucca has become a familiar restaurant in Little Italy. Diva #1 and Sweet Pea have spent many lovely lunches at Lucca, either celebrating Sweet Pea’s birthday or simply enjoying the fresh Italian cuisine. Their chalkboard menu changes frequently, and though it is in Italian, the servers always begin by translating the menu. We were offered either flat or sparkling water with a lemon wedge and were soon reminiscing about the wonderful afternoons that we have spent at Lucca.
Ristorante Lucca offers a lunch table d’hôte menu from Mondays to Fridays that ranges between 20$-30$, depending on which main dish you choose. It includes soup or salad, a main dish, tiramisu and coffee. By coffee, we mean that Ristorante Lucca only offers real Italian espresso and not percolated American filtered coffee. To a coffee addict like Diva #1, that is fine by her.
Sweet Pea and Diva #1 arrived early and were quickly brought bruschetta. It is easily the best bruschetta that we have ever had; room temperature perfectly ripe tomatoes top the crusty baguette drizzled with tasty extra virgin olive oil. We were soon contemplating eating the last two slices reserved for Sweet Pea’s dad and friend… it was hard to resist.
So we waited, enjoying a glass of red wine and facing Dante Street all while looking out of Lucca’s picturesque windows. Lucca serves great Italian food with fresh ingredients; we have never had a meal here that we did not love. We were soon texting Sweet Pea’s mother and making her jealous over the delights that we knew were in store.
We started reading the menu, Sweet Pea helping Diva#1 translate, and were soon ready to order our lunch. We were very eager to start doing what we love…eating.
Starting with either a green salad or their soup of the day was the first decision to be made. We opted for the minestrone soup. The Divas have said it many times, we are not soup people, but Lucca’s soups are rich and hearty. They are always flavourful and leave you very content. The ideal comfort food, their minestrone soup was perfection for a winter day. Their salad is also lovely, a perfect combination of mixed greens, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, unfortunately, no one ordered it this time, so we don’t have a picture!
A crostini sat in the center of the hearty minestrone broth and freshly grated parmigiano floated on top. Sweet Pea assures me that this delightful soup may have even rivaled Nonna’s.
The first thing that we noticed on the menu was our old favourite: beautiful butterfly pasta that looks like little bow ties with Italian sausage, zucchini and gorgonzola. We debated ordering this wonderful pasta dish but we were eager to try something new. We recommend it to anyone who is lucky enough to see it on the menu; it is cheesy and divine.
“Farfalle salsiccia zucchini gorgonzola” 21$
Sweet Pea is a lover of risotto, and often orders it when she sees it on a menu, so she was intrigued by Lucca’s risotto that was served with scallops and rocket greens tossed in saffron. Risotto and scallops?? Sign us up! This made for quite a combination of flavours. The risotto was cooked to perfection with halved cherry tomatoes tossed in the plate. Few things are worse than over-cooked risotto. The saffron really stood out and mixed wonderfully with the other ingredients. The scallops were perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the rocket greens and cherry tomatoes only added to the flavourful dish. The perfect risotto for a (heavy) afternoon meal.
Diva#1 was not sure what to order, there were too many menu items to choose from, but was quickly intrigued by a new contender that she had not seen before: the spaghetti with rabbit, mushrooms and spinach sounded fabulous. The waiter agreed that it was a good choice. A generous portion of rabbit, in a sauce made out of the meat’s juices, was tossed with mushrooms and spinach. If Diva#1 sees mushrooms in pasta she is already excited. It was an original pasta dish and the portion of rabbit was very generous. The waiter soon arrived with freshly grated parmigiano and a spicy chili oil; Diva #1 was set for a very full lunch.
Sweet Pea’s dad has a hard time resisting Lucca’s seafood linguini when he sees it on the menu. The beautiful linguini frutti di mare is a Lucca classic. The pasta is tossed in a spicy white wine sauce that simply clings to the pasta. Often seafood dishes are tossed in a cream sauce but Lucca does not want to cover their fresh seafood taste with cream. The plate is tossed with mussels and clams, and topped with a generous amount of scallops and shrimps. The linguini frutti di mare is also sometimes offered with a tomato based sauce, which is equally delicious. This plate is a Lucca favourite for a reason; we are glad to see it recurring on the menu. It is the best seafood linguine that we have had in the city!
Other items on that day’s menu included calf’s liver with spinach, and sliced duck with asparagus which Diva #1 almost ordered, amongst other delights. We were craving pasta but had it been dinner, we probably would have gone with the beautiful Italian ideology of primi e secondi and started with a pasta dish and finished with one of their delectable meat dishes. We really need to go to Lucca for dinner; Lucca is such a fun and integral part of when Sweet Pea and Diva #1 play hooky that we forget that we can indulge in the evening too.
The lunch table d’hôte also comes with a wonderful tiramisu. The cake is not soggy, the mascarpone is creamy and delicious, and the espresso is strong and prevalent. We were soon stealing bites from our friend’s tiramisu. Decorated with cocoa, icing sugar, and their signature berries, the tiramisu is always a success at Lucca.
Though the tiramisu is the dessert that comes with the lunch special, and a delectable treat, Diva #1 and Sweet Pea had their hearts set on the chocolate fondant. This dessert comes with berries which are meant to be eaten with the fondant like a fondue dessert. This cake is never over cooked at Lucca and the gooey chocolate center is always exploding out of the cake. We could never come to Lucca without enjoying this dessert and a cappuccino. Sometimes it comes with extra berries, other times with vanilla ice cream, but each time, it is perfection.
We left Lucca feeling stuffed, elated, and as always satisfied with some of Montreal’s best pasta dishes. Lucca is cozy and intimate, and in the warmer months their picturesque windows open to form an airy restaurant. We look forward to going back for dinner and enjoying their main meat dishes, especially because we have never disliked any of their pasta dishes.
On other trips to Lucca we also enjoyed a papardelle with shrimp, cherry tomatoes, basil and a saffron sauce that was to die for. After consulting with Sweet Pea’s P’tit Soeur, she checked the iPhone photo archives and reminded us of an amazing fish risotto made with olives and pesto. We have never tried anything that we did not love!
All in all, Ristorante Lucca is a hidden gem in Little Italy that spoils you with fabulous dishes. We really need to go there for dinner… but for now it will be the place we escape to when we want a day to ourselves.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: Always on Thursdays, Antipasto, Bruschetta, Calamari, Calf Liver, Chalkboard Menu, Chocolate Fondant, Dante, Duck, Fish, Frutti di Mare, Italian, Linguine frutti di mare, Little Italy, Lucca, Lunch, Minestrone, Montreal, Mozzarella di bufala, Pasta, Rabbit, Risotto, Ristorante Lucca, Sausage, Scallops, Seafood, Soup, Table d’hôte, Tiramisu, Veal, Vitello