It is never stuffy or snooty when you dine at Lucca Cafe, but the menu is as good as it gets. Seasonal produce is sourced and every care is taken into preparing these dishes each and every day.
I live just across the freeway from Lucca but like everyone else, I forget it is there. The location is hidden, in Quail Hill, and right in the corner of the strip mall, not visible unless you were really looking for it. But once you find it, you will not only be surprised by the quality of the food, but by how warm the staff and owners are.
Owner Cathy Pavlos, a self-taught chef is a passionate woman who’s creativity is astounding. Who would think to roast white chocolate and pair it with a savory dish? I was skeptical when she told us of her pork tenderloin special, coated in an espresso rub plated with a brush of roasted white chocolate. I’m not a fan of sweet with my proteins, but after my first bite, I was hooked. Moscato grapes add another dimension to this dish.
The restaurant has introduced some small plates to the menu which make for wonderful appetizers or if you’re just wanting a few nibbles with your wine. I’m not a big wine drinker but the selection of wines are impressive and they will always find one to suit your taste. I like a pinot noir to accompany the tender lamb chops, which incidentally are so delicious I can eat a rack of them on my own.
I’m not a huge fan of pork, and ironically, Lucca has turned me into a lover of pork. Whenever I see pork belly on the menu I tend to always skip it, but after tasting the pork belly here, I’m a changed woman. The lusciousness and unctuousness of the pork belly is like having a mouth-gasm with the crispy topside giving a contrasting component making your mouth dance. It is one of the best pork belly dishes I’ve ever had.
One of the specials we had recently was a wild salmon atop potato souffle and flavored with fresh dill and capers. The potato souffle is creamy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. Serving it in a mini skillet helps the crisping process, making it absolutely delectable and addicting.
I wish more people would make it a point to check out Lucca Cafe. They are really doing some innovative dishes there but still remains a hidden gem. We’ll have to do something about that because this little place needs to go viral! They’re THAT good.
6507 Quail Hill Parkway
Irvine, CA 92603