LUCCIOLA opened its doors at 621 Amsterdam Avenue in New York at 6 pm on November 29.th. Food and wine was being offered gratis. By 6:45 pm the restaurant was a wall-to-wall crowded affair with the number of visitors exceeding the maximum occupancy allowed for the size of the room.
Large pans of Lasagna Bolognese, Gnocchi, mushrooms and meatballs were catered by Dulcis in fundo, an establishment that Michele Casadei Massari, Alberto Ghezzi and Gianluca Capozzi (from Piccolo Cafe), with co-founders Erica Monti and Luca Filicori call their strongest asset. The Lasagna Bolognese — typical Italian comfort food — had layers of rich, roasted Pomodoro-Bolognese sauce, basil, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Unfortunaately, the Gnocchi, were tasteless. I didn’t have an opportunity to sample the mushrooms or meat balls.
I made a reservation for 6:30 pm on Monday, December 4th to return – early enough to miss crowds, which I suspected would appear by 8:30. The warm, cheerful room holds 54 marble and heavily varnished thick wood tables and seven additional bar stools located at the rear of the restaurant. Across the windows and behind the bright, fully-stocked bar partially-drawn Venetian blinds separate the room from the kitchen. Marina Vanni and Cristina Guidoni from StudioEmporioHome, a Bologna-based firm, designed the stunning “Madre Lucciola” lamps, and Marco Gallotta designed and created the wallpaper and artworks. Their inspiration is taken from the 1985 Italian drama film, “Festa di Laurea.”
Pasta is the big hit at Lucciola. Heaping bowls range from $15 for a variety of half a dozen homemade pastas to $22 for Spaghetti Al Cartoccio (a seafood ragu with pepperoncini ). I’m sure the gorgonzola cheese adds a savory zest to the mild pumpkin gnocchi. I understand it’s a good size plate as well and runs $17.
My curiosity was piqued by the Mimosa Risotto, and I asked my server, Christina, if it was possible for Luca to prepare a very small portion – just for a taste. What appeared was a portion that could have been a meal. She also mentioned it too is a large plate ($19). Chef Luca uses Champagne with the chicken stock to enrich the flavor of the risotto rice and finishes the dish with asparagus and parmesan cheese, adding a perfectly poached egg on top as a garnish. It was gluten free, rich, creamy and sumptuous.
There are delicious-looking entrees on the menu — chicken breast with herbs, souvlaki lamb, Portuguese octopus, salmon, scallops, organic prime angus skirt steak and a catch of the day.
I ordered the grilled fish special, Branzno, which was tender, moist and flavorful. The addition of parsley added a savory flavor to the sweet Clementine orange wedges. The dish was served with a generous portion of arugula salad, sliced beets, shaved fennel and cherry stone tomatoes over which olive oil and rich balsamic vinegar was drizzled. At $25 this was a New York bargain.
After a thoroughly satisfying meal, accompanied by a dry, perfectly chilled Barton and Gustier 2016 Sancerre ($14) I was unable to accommodate dessert and coffee. I’ll reserve those for another time. It’s a delight to add an excellent restaurant to the UWS.
Lucciola (fireflies) is an homage to the owners/partners/pals’ hometown of Bologna and its cinematic history, which takes inspiration from a scene from the film, “Festa di Laurea,” directed by Pupi Avati and starring Nil Novecento (a favorite in Bologna). The film was released internationally with the title, “The Graduation Party.”
Lucciola’s hours are from 5 pm until 10 pm. Phone 212-874-7774 and is located on the southeast corner of 90th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.