Saturday night was our first time to Luciano’s which has been open almost a month. All in all, it was quite good. We had somewhat of an early reservation (6 p.m.) so we were one of a few people in the dining room, but it filled up pretty quickly and by the time we finished about 7 p.m, it was pretty full.
As you walk in, the bar area is to the right and what appeared to be a private party room to the left. The main dining area is in the back. It’s a little more expensive and upscale than some of the other restaurants downtown but it’s not at the level of a David Drake. The bill came to $100 (not including tip). That included a round of martinis and a bottle of wine (we went with a low-end bottle, $25 I think, but they had a wide range in terms of $$$). We split an appetizer and each had a salad and entree (we happened to pick some lower-priced entrees).
Without question, my girlfriend Kathleen and I both enjoyed the spinach and artichoke fontina fondue the most. Whether we’re Champps in Menlo Park Mall or some Applebee’s, we’re big fans of spinach and artichoke dip. But this, this was on another level. They even brought out more foccacia upon request (because you know there’s always way more dip left over). The salads were pretty standard; Kathleen had mixed greens, I went with pear and walnut.
For dinner, I had chicken stuffed with spinach, proscuitto and provolone, along with whipped potatoes. There was a zesty type of sauce/reduction, just enough to cover the base of the plate; unfortunately, I’m forgetting what it was but it was real nice. Kathleen enjoyed her orriechette, which had no shortage of sausage and broccoli rabe with big hunks of garlic.
After filling up on bread, and then the foccacia with the fondue, I had no room left for dessert. But the menu looked nice, and included varied single-malt scotches and port wines, in addition to the sweets. [Dessert sidebar: We randomly stopped into The Waiting Room Friday night for a drink and decided to split a cheesecake (one piece, not an entire cake). When I think dessert, I don’t generally think Waiting Room, but I might now.]
As for the service, we really couldn’t have asked for much more. Even our waiter was named Luciano, and he was another highlight.
First impressions: This may sound odd, but the first thing that came to my mind was how big the tables seemed. Tables are set for four but it just felt like we could almost seat six comfortably. And the dining room appeared roomy, the tables weren’t too close together.
When we walked in, Kathleen got kind of a banquet hall vibe to it, but she warmed up, particularly thanks to our waiter. I think that may be because it’s an entirely new place, built from scratch and not renovated from a previous restaurant. I would expect some more character to permeate it over the years.
We met a friend for a drink at the bar after dinner, her first thought upon entering was something to the effect of, “Wow, this doesn’t look like Rahway.” This from someone who lives in Rahway; a good sign I’d say. Again, I noticed just how spacious the area behind the bar was. Not that it cut into the space on our end, it just struck me (again). There’s a flat-screen TV on either end of the bar, one above a big fireplace (that one was playing college basketball, the other News12).
All three of us enjoyed the bar. I thought maybe it was just me, but the others mentioned it too: I was taken aback by the bartenders in hot pants. Don’t get me wrong, they looked great, but it definitely surprised me, and didn’t strike us as consistent with the old-world Italian theme that Luciano’s seems to go for. What we also liked about the bar was the piano and bass duo playing in the corner. A nice touch; no too loud either.
If anything else comes to mind, I’ll post an update but I think that’s about it. Has anyone else been to Luciano’s yet? What did you think? If you plan to check it out, be sure to come back and comment on this post.