Monday, July 14, 2014

A la Lucia Food Review

Pizza Tatiana

Amazing. Why mess around with words, when describing one of the best Italian lunches I've ever had? That's what happens, when you visit A la Lucia in Olde Towne Alexandria: You find amazing. Both on the plate, and through the service... old school, at its best. Toss in casually comfortable & affordable, and it's a wonder I ever managed to leave my booth.

Not that I wanted to, mind you: I was forced into temporary culinary retirement by a wide assortment of deliciousness, topped off by a Gelato Milk Shake. Come to think of it, it really is a wonder I was able to get out of my booth. I came in with hefty ambitions, and left utterly satisfied. In between, I devoured a mountain of food, fit for a king (or at least two or three people.) I feasted on burgers, fries, meatballs, pizza and some of the most amazing bread you'll ever find... and lived to tell about it. Life is good.

House bread

A la Lucia is a bit off the beaten track (at least in terms of Olde Towne's busy King Street corridor) but well worth the extra three or four-block walk (although you can actually find parking nearby... take that King Street!) Walking in, you immediately feel at home. I received a warm greeting from the hostess, and was taken to a comfy booth facing Madison Street. The dining area is quite spacious, split into three rooms (including an attractive bar area in the back.) I was seated in the main dining room... not exactly ultra-modern, but family-friendly and comfortable. A minute later, I was presented with a simple basket of house bread. Perhaps simple isn't the right word... Let's try "a basket of perfection."


The bread here is nothing short of Heavenly. It has an amazing texture, and sops up A la Lucia's top-notch olive oil like nobody's business. It's laced with rosemary, and gives notice that you're in for one heck of a good meal. For me, that meant two enormous 100% veal meatballs, resting in a bowl of luscious, house-made tomato sauce. I scribbled "sauce to die for," and "velvety" in my spiral memo pad and over a month later (I'm way too busy) I can't come up with a better way to describe this incredible dish. The meatballs are dressed simply with onions, and prove the adage "less is more" to be true. If my body let me, I'd eat them morning, noon and night.


From there, I took owner Michael Nayeri's recommendation, and went for Pizza Tatiana (bresaola with smoked mozzarella and arugula.) Mamma Mia! The crust is tender and light with a gorgeous layer of oozy smoked mozza on top. A generous portion of lemon-marinated arugula provides perfect balance for what amounts to... a perfect pizza. And once again... so simple!

Hamburger interior - Impressive!

Next up (and perhaps where I started to overindulge) a Hamburger ($7.50) and French Fries ($4.) Hardly Italian, but what can I say... I'm a greedy hungry guy. The burger was cooked perfectly, sliced in half and served on a crispy baguette. The meat was tremendous... like a steak burger, but juicy. It needed salt (an easy fix) but actually managed to beat most other burgers in terms of taste. Truth be told, it reminded me of the burgers my Mom used to make for me.

Fresh Cut French Fries

As for the fries, they were fresh-cut but flimsy (probably only once-fried.) I'm not a big fan of soft fries, but they were still quite flavorful. If pressed for a one-word description, I'd give you two... tasty and unique. At this point, I started to regret having only one stomach. One of the servers came by to clear my plates, and offered up the line of the day, "Give up?" He said it with a smile, and we both knew... I ordered too much. Thank goodness he wasn't around when I uttered, 'I'd love a gelato milk shake' a mere two minutes later. Keep in mind, I have a job to do...

Vanilla Gelato Milk Shake

The shake was fantastic ($5, vanilla) and I somehow managed to finish every last drop. A la Lucia had thrown everything at me, except for the kitchen sink; and I was still standing (barely.) It wasn't your typical Italian meal; but then again, there's nothing typical about Michael Nayeri's restaurant. From the music (John Mayer's "No Such Thing," Amy Winehouse's "Valerie") to casual yet first-class service, A la Lucia is a step above almost every other eatery in Olde Towne (and that's a lot.) Toss in outstanding food, and you have... Olde Towne Alexandria's best restaurant. Buon appetito!

A la Lucia is open for Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Dinner hours are 5-9:30 PM, Monday-Thursday, 5-10:00 PM Friday and Saturday; and 4-9:00 PM on Sunday. Click here to make online reservations, or call (703) 836-5123.