Basil Prosperi’s Lucca Restaurant is one of my favorite lunchtime destinations, whether I am hosting a meeting over lunch or eating out with a friend or my wife. Despite its consistently high ratings, it usually has some room. Some days there is a piano player as well. If he is really playing loudly, and if you want to have a conversation, you may want to move a few tables down from the front. The decor is rehab-modern, with exposed and distressed brick and modern furnishings. Artwork is spare. Service is quick. After entering you wait your turn, order your meal, get your drink and grab your seat. This is similar to the commonly owned Bagni di Lucca which is just a few blocks away. The clientele is mixed, with both business types and causal diners, though the prices or selections seem to keep out the “red hat” crowd.
In a lot of ways, I think that Lucca is partly responsible for making the East Village the success that it is today. Sticks brought established credentials with its art and furniture, Noodle Zoo brought large and continuous crowds for its excellent lunches, and Lucca set the bar for high-end lunches and dinners. Together, they and many other innovative stores like Projects, Raygun, Aimee made the East Village a great place to shop and even live, and not just another collection of antique stores and used clothes shops.
The menu is not extensive and is fairly different each time I visit. During the most recent visit my wife had a carrot ginger soup with a Greek salad on the side. I had a vegetable brie sandwich with a Caesar salad. The brie was just a tad overpowering, with that musty aroma that brie can have. The Caesar salad was authentically prepared and very good. There was more than enough food. Quality is uniformly superb, especially if owner and chef Steve Logsdon is presiding over the kitchen — and preside he does. It is clear who is in charge when he is there, though I’ve not seen him around during the last few visits.
The point of this review is not to go over the dinner menu, but one of the absolute top meals I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating was enjoyed here at Lucca. I honestly thought that I had died and gone to heaven. If I recall correctly, it was some sort of cream-sauce ravioli. The pasta and sauces are outstanding and expertly prepared and presented.
Another blog review that does a better job than mine is a recent entry by Pete Jones in his “Des Moines is not Boring blog.” I encourage you to check it out. He is a good writer.
Address: 420 E. Locust St., Des Moines, Iowa. 243-1115
Website: Apparently not available at the moment.