Everything we'd heard had been good. And the time had finally come.
Lucca had been open since January on the corner of 24th and Fremont, just blocks from our house, and from all reports it had been slammed since the day it opened. We were scheduled to meet a friend that evening and, since none of us had tried it yet, we went for an early dinner.
Arriving a little before 6 o'clock, we got the last table for four. It was a Saturday night and there were a couple of larger groups celebrating various events, as well as several families with small children. Our waitress had a charming Italian accent and brought drinks and wine quickly, and the mussels and crostini we ordered for appetizers came within minutes.
The mussels were simmered in a broth of garlic, artichoke hearts and butter and were superb. The crostini, two crusts each of paté, a white bean spread and a bolognese sauce were good, though I could have eaten six crusts of the pate alone, it was that exceptional.
For entrées, we had a sausage pizza from their wood oven and though it was not as bubbly as Nostrana's, it was nicely browned and lightly sauced. If they can keep up the quality or even do better, this place is going to hit it big. Dave had their grilled chicken cooked under a brick, big pieces of chicken that were moist and tender and came with a side of a chard gratin.
I went with the short ribs braised in chianti with a side of creamy polenta and roasted root veggies that was fall-apart tender and luscious, not to mention quite filling. With a bottle of Barbera d'Alba from their very reasonably priced wine list, this was a great meal for a very moderate price.
The room was a little noisy for my tastes, but it looked like they were working on a few fixes to bring the decibel level down. And if you have a group, they do take reservations but try to keep most of the room open for walk-ins. A nice shared dinner with wine at the bar would be a great way to go and even cheaper. We'll be walking up there this summer for sure!
Details: Lucca, 3449 NE 24th Ave. Phone 503-287-7372.