Revisiting Lucca

The gnocchi at Lucca never fails to satisfy.

By Wini Moranville

Generally speaking, restaurants in this town either serve small plates or very big plates. To come away from the table feeling sated but not gorged, you must either nibble through numerous little bites of this and that or order one large entree bookended by appetizers and desserts shared by the table.

Whatever happened to the multicourse dinner, wherein each course is sized exactly right for the diner to enjoy a meal of three or four courses of their own choosing (no table-wide consensus or sharing needed)? It’s an immensely satisfying way of dining that follows a classic dramatic arc—the rising action (the appetizer/salad or salad/pasta), the climax (the main dish) and the falling action/denouement (dessert and an after-dinner coffee or drink).
If you think that sounds too unhip and yesteryear for words, please know that there’s a crowd of people who don’t care. At Lucca on a recent Saturday night, the room was jampacked with diners who, like me, must have longed for such a complete dining experience.
My four-course arc started with a small Greek salad, with the vegetables and garnishes finely diced and the greens delicately dressed; there was a finesse here that you don’t always see in the salad course. For my second course, a sane-sized plate of pasta with clam sauce—a garlicky, herb-flecked dish with a sensible dusting of Parmesan—delighted. The main dish brought three fat, luscious scallops angled atop a dashing paprika aioli for one of those simple-yet-unforgettable dishes you think about for days. Dessert was a selection of mini-confections (served on one plate per two diners), including a featherweight chocolate torte. Other diners at the table were delighted with their completely different choices in each course; only one dish—a solid-but-prosaic chicken Parmesan—underwhelmed. (P.S.: The gnocchi never fails.)
The four-course dinner at Lucca costs $42. Lucca is at 420 E. Locust St.; 515-243-1115; luccadsm.net.
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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