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Authentic Italian dining in an elegant atmosphere

I love when I get asked to check out a new Italian restaurant! To me, Italian cuisine is the ultimate comfort food and as I am in the midst of wedding planning, I am in need of major comfort.

On a Thursday night, I joined my friend Tonio for a night out at Santa Lucia Ristorante. The elegant look of the place and warm greeting by General Manager/Wine Director Gabriel Salas aSanta_Lucia_Hotspots_2.indds we walked in clued me in to the special time ahead.

Santa Lucia opened this past June and is open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner and just dinner on the weekends. Their menu is divided in 6 sections—Antipasti, Zuppe e Insalate, Le Paste, Secondi Piatti, Le Pizze, Contorni.

Owners Desiree and Robert Cassera are from New York. To give you the authentic experience they grew up with, filtered New York water is used in all pasta, pizza and drinks. This is just one of the unique things about Santa Lucia. Another is the background music–you won’t hear the stereotypical Italian classics, but more modern, ambient sounds

As soon as we placed our order, the manager Gabriel told us “Welcome home.” This has been a signature saying of his since his time at a popular restaurant on Las Olas and you indeed feel comfortable at Santa Lucia. Of course, the food and décor are better than what I find at home, but that’s neither here nor there.

The chef at Santa Lucia is Salvatore De Rosa from Naples, Italy. He has worked at many local notable Italian restaurants and the man has talent!

Tonio and I each started with a glass of the Kosmic Krista, which features Grey Goose Vodka, Grand Marnier and orange and cranberry juice with a wedge of orange. This is the most popular drink at Santa Lucia’s Men’s Night, which takes place every Wednesday and offers 2-4-1 dinner specials and $6 martinis. This refreshing drink is now in my Top 5 cocktails.

We enjoyed their fresh bread with our cocktail, which was served with olives and shaved pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano.

We started with one of the specials that evening—Zucchini Flowers—which featured zucchini stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella, breaded and oven baked. It was as beautiful as it was delicious.

Another appetizer we thoroughly enjoyed was the Grilled Octopus. We were hesitant to try this at first, because Tonio and I have both endured rubbery grilled octopus at other joints, but this time we were glad we took the chance. It is cooked a special way at Santa Lucia that made it tender and melt-in-your-mouth. I will look at octopus differently from now on.

Next we tried their Polpette Al Pomodoro e Ricotta ($14) app which featured two large FFT-3004_copy1homemade meatballs with a side of creamy ricotta and tomato sauce. From experience, I’ve found that meatballs tend to go one of two ways—either light and fluffy or heavy and dense. These meatballs were just the perfect texture and extremely flavorful.

Next we tried what was for me the star of the night– homemade gnocchi stuffed with white truffles. Oh yes, you heard me right—like regular old gnocchi wasn’t delicious enough in all its pillowy, carby goodness. At Santa Lucia they took it to the next level with the amazing flavor of white truffles in a brown butter sauce.

FFT-3004_copy3We also tried their Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms. The tantalizing flavor of white wine sauce permeated this dish. Chef Salvatore makes his Risotto with Carnaroli rice instead of the traditional Arborio. From my research (through eating and Google), I can tell you that Carnaroli has a smaller grain, a higher starch content and makes for a creamier risotto.

I then ordered the Chicken Livornese—tender pieces of chicken served with black olives, capers, cherry tomatoes, garlic and white wine.

FFT-3004_copy2Tonio ordered the Veal Francese, which was pounded thin, lightly breaded and served with a wonderfully light, lemony sauce.  Entrée prices range from $24 to $36 and are served with the vegetable of the day.

We finished off our meal with a surprisingly light piece of Rum Baba and some fantastic homemade Limoncello.

With the attractive décor, amazing cocktails and elegant, well-made Italian dishes, you will definitely woo whomever you take to this fine establishment. As general manager Gabriel says, “Welcome home.”