Got this email the other day from Michael Papi, a local who is obviously hopelessly in love with a pork chop. Read it and drool:
After eating the contents of a mysterious doggie bag in my refrigerator, I knew I had stumbled onto something special. I had planned on taking just one bite of the hanger steak but, ended up eating the whole thing. In order to conceal the evidence of my theft, I took out the trash right then and there. I desperately wanted to know where my roommate had visited, but I avoided him for two days, holding out hope he would blame someone else in my absence. After two days I came clean, admitted my sins, and in return was given the source of the leftovers: Trattoria Lucca.
Disappointed I thought to myself, “I NEVER eat at Italian restaurants!” Not that I don’t like Italian food, the opposite is true, it’s just that I have learned to cook Italian food reasonably well, and have no reason to spend $15 on a mediocre dish of penne with vodka.
Fortunately for me Lucca is unlike any Italian restaurant I know. I would even go so far as to describe the food as being “Progressive American” with a focus on blending fresh local produce with imported meats and cheeses. I started with the vegetable platter, which is enough for 2-4 people, depending on your waist size. This platter can be only described as a small portion extravaganza of fresh local vegetables prepared using the most delicious preparations in Charleston. Do not miss the cauliflower puree served with a runny egg inside, topped with crumbled pancetta. My server described this dish by saying, “it’s like a chocolate dome cake, except with egg and cauliflower.” Slightly confused, I dug into this magnificent mound of goo and never looked back.
The pork chop is the undisputed heavy weight champion at Lucca. I overheard one of the waiters reprimand a customer “You WILL get the pork chop… just not today” after the patron asked for the fish. You can fall in love with this dish before you even taste it. It is served on a bed of arugula and broccoli rabe, topped with fresh tomatoes and provolone cheese. It all comes together in a crispy, yet juicy flavor explosion in your mouth. For 19 bucks you get a Hulk Hogan sized portion, and I recommend you be at least 6’5” 225 if you plan on finishing.
Although the restaurant could probably survive solely on the strength of this mighty chop, there are many other dishes to choose from. The freshly made ravioli prepared with braised short ribs were incredible. I felt like the chef had taken a trip to Seoul and brought back some Bulgogi and wrapped it in pasta dough. I couldn’t tell if the pasta dough was made at the restaurant, but as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.
Our server suggested the polenta cake for dessert which was light, sweet, and overall delicious. For a second I started to wonder if the cake was made with 50% flour and 50% polenta, but then I remembered that the are no rules at Trattoria Lucca. I moved on to more important things: Gelato. The consistency here is perfect, even Paulo could learn a thing or two by driving his Smart Car over to Bogard Street.
At the end of the night the Chef took a moment to walk out of the kitchen. Like the Pope walking out of his balcony to appease his followers, he gazed into the dining room and looked over each table. He remained reserved and displayed a pronounced lack of emotion. I couldn’t tell if he was encapsulated in a moment of self reflection, or if he was checking out brunette at table 6. Regardless, I think he deserves a lot of credit, in putting together a rock solid restaurant. Charleston has dozens of restaurants for the tourist, plenty of great eateries for the college crowd, and handfuls for fine dining for the “other half.” I declare Lucca the restaurant for ALL!!! It is the only restaurant in Charleston where the South of Broad elite can sit next to a freshman sociology student, and both enjoy each others company. Lucca is a tremendous addition to Charleston, and if you can’t recognize the quality of the food here, you don’t deserve to eat it.
Uh, yeah, this makes me want to get back to Lucca asap.
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.