International Twist at Lucca

— By Design Furniture & Interior Design presents dsmDining —

Above: But wait, there’s more… Diners get a totally different international flair at Lucca if they catch the elusive “Dinner Upstairs,” enjoying Mexican meals like this Chicken Milanese.

By Wini Moranville

Inspired simplicity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. With food, who can draw an exact line between simple-and-sublime and simple-to-a-fault? That idea struck me as I enjoyed an almost-secret, extremely low-profile, only-on-weekends dining experience upstairs at Lucca.

Known simply as “Dinner Upstairs,” the evening’s menu is created by Cidalia Tamaz, who trained as a nurse before moving on to serve as a private chef for prominent families in her native Monterrey, Mexico. During the week Tamaz works in Lucca’s 100 percent Italian downstairs kitchen. On weekend nights, however, the upstairs kitchen belongs to her. She oversees the evening’s three-course, $28 Mexican-inspired menu.

Until recently, only insiders—friends of owner Steve Logsdon and regular devotees of Lucca—were told about the dinners. But clearly, they’re catching on. The night I ventured in, the room swelled with the well-dressed, high-end-wine-swilling crowd you usually see downstairs.

For our first course, we enjoyed a barbacoa taco and a particularly luscious shrimp chile relleno; both proved satisfying and well crafted. For me, the unmistakable leap into the realm of inspired simplicity came with a dish called Chicken Milanese, akin to Chicken Cordon Bleu but with a Mexican twist. The ham- and cheese-stuffed, lightly breaded chicken breast was served over yellow rice and topped with a bright salsa verde. The dessert, a small square of flan served with fresh fruit, satisfied in a sweet-and-simple way.

If you appreciate the style of food that Logsdon serves at Lucca, you’ll enjoy the Upstairs experience. Both trade in a certain style of well-crafted, refined-rustic cuisine served in a polished setting. If, however, you’re beholden to your favorite taqueria and could never fathom paying $28 for three courses of Mexican food, this isn’t your dining experience.

Note that Dinner Upstairs is served on most Friday and Saturday nights; call in advance, however, as every so often, the room is reserved for a private party. Lucca is at 420 E. Locust St., 515-243-1115;

Wini Moranville writes about food, wine and dining for dsm magazine and dsmWeekly. Follow her on Facebook at All Things Food–DSM.

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