Lucca Italian Will Make You Shout Molto Bene!

Lucca Italian Will Make You Shout Molto Bene!

Thursday, April 02, 2020

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It was over a meal of homemade pizza that Simon Lara and Paula Fernandez hatched plans to open a casual-dining Italian restaurant in Montego Bay. Lara and Fernandez both hail from Spain and have been in the hospitality industry for over a decade. According to Fernandez, when she served the pizza to Lara, he exclaimed, “'Why don't you come and make this in Jamaica?'” Clearly, Fernandez, who has known Lara from she was young, knew that this was a sincere offer. She packed her bags and moved to Montego Bay, where both of them opened Lucca Italian Restaurant in The Annex at Fairview Shopping Centre.

Before moving to Jamaica, Fernandez worked in restaurants and bars in Colombia, England and Spain. She spent four years as a bar manager in Colombia where the establishment won “best bar” for three straight years. She is a trained chef who is passionate about service, and it shows. The interior of the restaurant is a bright, well-defined and inviting space. When Thursday Food visited, Lara and Managing Director Shanay Peart were on vacation. However, Fernandez and the rest of the team were ready to flex their culinary muscles.

Fried calamari, salt fish arancini, quinoa Caesar salad, fettuccine carbonara, spaghetti and meatballs, two pizzas, and cheesecake were served for lunch. Each piece of calamari was evenly coated and properly fried. Not a bit of grease remained on fingertips, and the garlic-herb mayo was the perfect accompaniment.

Thursday Food was eager to try the salt fish arancini that has been highly touted on the restaurant's social media pages. It lived up to the hype. The arancini (stuffed rice balls that are coated then deep-fried) received the same treatment as the calamari. The creamy arborio rice held on to the salt fish centre like a secret. The tines of the fork revealed a delightfully briny, bright and delicious nugget of salt fish. When asked why salt fish Fernandez noted, “We wanted to do something Italian that incorporated an everyday Jamaican product.” The mission was deliciously accomplished.

Fernandez had to convince us to try the quinoa Caesar salad. We've had excellent Caesars, and the salad seemed out of place at this carb-loading party. We were wrong, Fernandez was right. The quinoa Caesar is a highlight of the Lucca menu, and everyone should order it. Crisp leaves of iceberg lettuce were generously coated with quinoa and a Caesar dressing that, instead of anchovies, utilised sardines. The croutons, made from bread baked in-house, added an alluring foil to the salad's texture. It was terrific.

The pasta at Lucca is worth the drive. Made fresh daily (and it shows) each plate feels like it was carefully prepared by a loving nonna in the kitchen. The all-beef meatballs were exceptional, and the marinara should be jarred and sold. Fernandez uses two kinds of cheese (Italian and American) and a splash of cream to make her fettuccine carbonara. After rendering bacon, garlic and black pepper are added to the pan. This is followed by the duo of cheeses and splash of milk and al dente fettuccine. Finally, the whisked eggs are added (they usually are mixed with the cheese) to enrobe each strand of pasta then served. What a dish!

The pizzas — the Lucca Special and vegetarian — did not disappoint. During lunch, we noticed that customers called ahead to order pizza for pick-up. If you lived in MoBay, you'd do, too. The crust and sauce are to die for. The Lucca Special is topped with ham, artichokes, mushrooms, oregano and a whole egg. In major gastronomical cities egg on pizza isn't anything new. Still, it was pleasing to see that it has a fitting place on Lucca's menu. The vegetarian pizza is the most loaded pizza on the list (so many veggies); however, due to sorcery or the deftness of the pizzaiolo (pizza maker), each slice stands up under the weight of the toppings.

The cheesecake is based on Fernandez's mother's recipe. Topped with housemade fruit compote and cookie crumbs (also made in-house) it's airy, tasty, and in the words of Goldilocks, just right. There are many excellent dining options in Montego Bay, but not all are worth fighting the city's traffic or jumping on the toll road for. Luckily, Lucca is worthy as the food there is molto bene!

Lucca Italian Restaurant

Unit #17 The Annex — Fairview Shopping Centre, Montego Bay

Mondays – Saturdays

11:00 am – 10:00 pm (kitchen closes at 9:30 pm)

876.488.9541

Instagram @luccamobay


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