Thursday, November 17, 2011


This was supposed to be a "review" until I experienced Luce in ALL of it's amazing glory and literally marked off EVERY category as a 5 out of 5. (except the wine by the bottle prices)

I really am a fair critic I'd say, but after this you're going to think I'm a total push-over! I don't care! They won me over, in every way.

Luce is one of Charlotte's PREMIER restaurants for great Italian fare, wonderful service and a total intimate, european feeling experience. It's tucked away in a little corner of bustling uptown in the Hearst Tower. I would venture to say if you didn't already know it was there, it'd be hard to find... which I actually really appreciate! I can't imagine the place even seats more than 100 people at a time. The first thing I thought when I walked in the doors was "Venice." The hue of the golden room was so warm and the GORGEOUS chandeliers made it SO regal.
Then we were immediately seated by the one and only Andrea, our favorite friend at a different restaurant that sadly went away. Out came the greatest wine (Jordan, it was Dolcetto d'Alba), a fabulous spread of crusty italian bread and focaccia with this perfect little blend of cannellini beans, oil and onions. I could've just eaten that all  night and still thought it was the best restaurant in town... seriously.
THEN, you guys.... we ordered salads to start. Just salads. Just leafy greens with other treats chopped up in them.... how could we possibly have been so impressed? Andrea, who is SO gifted at what he does, just happened to remember from a year ago that my mom is WILD for sauteed onions. So he casually suggests she shouldn't think about any other salad on the menu but this particular one. She agrees. I didn't know what to order, I actually hadn't even looked at the salads to be honest because I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into cheesy pasta... but Andrea, again, knowing just what I like, suggested an organic greens simple salad, and I said okay. MINE was perfect. Jordan, you would have been so impressed. It was full of CLEAN, beautiful, simple ingredients...nothing trying to hide the flavor of anything else... just greens, thinly sliced radishes, a few red onions and the most REFRESHING, light dressing. Nothing creamy and overpowering, nothing but a slight tangy twist on a very basic vinaigrette. But mother's.... mom's took the cake. It was not a usual salad of greens and other things. The main ingredient of the salad was the beautiful sauteed onions! As in, I think there were maybe 4 leaves of lettuce... just for looks I suppose. The onions were thickly sliced, sauteed, and mixed with these electric pink beets and a crumbly gorgonzola cheese. It was beautiful. It was creative. It was so clean and so different. We were already very impressed.
And then we ordered. Why? I'm not sure, we were already a little stuffed but we had to! EVERYTHING sounded DELICIOUS! I don't even like half the entree options on the menu but I guarantee you I would order ALL of them here and enjoy every one. I ordered the manicotti. Wanted to stick to the basics. Spinach, cheese, pink tomato sauce... It was perfect. It was just the right portion size, it was presented beautifully and the taste was simply delicious. (notice i keep saying simple? when the food itself is good, it doesn't need to be complicated.)
Dad ordered the pork chop... I actually don't like pork chops at all. Actually at all. But if dad hadn't been looking I would've leaped over the white cloth table and probably licked the plate clean. I don't know how to describe the flavor to you other than savory, fragrant rosemary and light. Not to mention how tender the pork chop was... who knew pork chops could EVER feel like anything but shoe leather.
(no, that photo isn't blurry, you're just seeing how the sauce was still bubbling when they served him)
But mother's... again.... 'peperone' it was called...(not pepperoni... I know Andrea, there's no such thing as pepperoni in Italy) :)  I would say it was the greatest stuffed pepper I've ever experienced in all my life. If there's one thing I would HANDS DOWN recommend for you to order amongst everything we tried, it would be that. It was a baked red pepper, stuffed with quinoa vegetable risotto & toasted tomato garlic coulis (coulis is basically a well pureed blend of fruits or veggies for sauces and flavoring). The presentation was the fanciest, classiest I've seen in a long time, especially in Charlotte. It was like eating a piece of someone's finely crafted artwork. And the flavor... oh the flavor! The quinoa was cooked perfectly, the flavor was rich but not CLOSE to being overbearing. The pepper itself was like slicing into the sweetest red strip of candy! IT WAS DELICIOUS! And the tomato garlic coulis that was pooling on the bottom... wow. All I can say about it is, wow. What a perfect dish.
THEN, before we even got all of our main dishes taken away, Andrea surprised us (as usual) with two desserts! How could we possibly fit that in??? I don't know but we did. All of it. Even the garnish haha! The cannoli plate looked gorgeous and tasted even better. We even asked Andrea if the shells were pre-made and he might as well have slapped us in the mouth when we asked that. "MADE IN HOUSE!" Impressed. And the other dessert was a delicate plate of semi freddo.. italian frozen custard, almond nougat and caramel sauce. This was one of those desserts that as soon as you taste it, even before you get a chance to swallow, it's like you float out of your chair momentarily and feel the word 'bliss' and realize you're having a total epiphany. Really. That's actually exactly what it's like. Even if you go just to experience the semi freddo, it would be well worth your visit.
 (meet Andrea!)
AND THEN, Andrea made me a macchiato. I was in Italy. I'm sure somehow time and space kissed each other and I was sitting back in a cafe at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Thank you, Andrea. The flavor could NOT have been better and it made the experience complete.

Can you tell we loved it? You need to go. If you find yourself dying for a really special culinary experience in a beautiful, warm setting, Luce is the ristorante of choice! The prices were right (if you order wine by the glass), the food... well, I won't start again. The staff, all of them, will be wonderful, kind new friends and we literally COULD NOT have left any happier or more satisfied in any way. We will DEFINITELY be frequenting this uptown gem at least once a week.

Maybe I'll see you there friends.

.......And make sure to ask for Andrea.

Happy Thursday! xo

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