Last night I met up with a friend of mine to have dinner at Lucca in the North End, a place sure not to be over run with the St Patrick's Day crowd (a difficult feat this weekend in Boston). I hadn't been to Lucca in several years, but it definitely ranks as one of my favorite North End restaurants.
The ambiance always reminds me of an old library with its dark wood and white linens...but I digress, though I do feel as though the style of a restaurant lends itself greatly to the experience as a whole. A poorly designed or decorated restaurant can distract from the quality of the food.
As Ive said before I will normally order any dish with mussels in it, similarly I will order almost anything with clams as well. Therefore Lucca's Linguini alle Vongole is high on my list of things to order. A traditional dish in nature, Linguini is served in a lemon white wine sauce with clams in the shell dispersed, as well garnished with sliced garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes. The clams were well cooked and the linguini was just slightly al dente which I enjoyed. However while the garlic and the parsley were prevalent, the lemon was not distinguishable, and sadly to me, the red pepper flakes were not either. I was hoping for a real punch of flavor from both, however I found it slightly disappointing. I remember being very impressed with it the last time I dined there, so perhaps it was just an off night for the chef. Perhaps he had a bit too much Jameson and Guinness, to be honest- I'm going to hope that was the case. It wasn't at all awful-however it wasn't up to the caliber that I remember from Lucca.
However, I was more than pleasantly surprised with their Tiramisu. As I discovered at Toscanos a few months back, Tiramisu can be made badly. Lucca was the exact opposite of Toscanos. The lady fingers were sufficiently soaked with a pear liqueur which added a very nice component, and the marscapone was creamy and delicious. It was a perfect end to the meal.
All in all Lucca's will remain a favorite of mine, and I will continue to hope that it was just an off night for that dish. Beyond that, there is absolutely nothing better than the North End in Boston- it is so full of culture and history, that it doesnt matter what the food is that youre eating, you just simply feel as though youre in Italy!