Lucia's â¢ 1200 Kenesaw Avenue â¢ 521-3842
by Gay Lyons
I really like pizza, so it was good news when my friend Wendy told me about Lucia's, which recently opened in the space previously occupied by Pisano's. She highly recommended stopping by for a dinner of salad and pizza, so on a recent evening, we took her advice and headed out to Sequoyah Hills with pizza on our minds.
Lucia's is a cozy place. The new owners have changed the dÃ©cor: Gold walls decorated with wrought iron and stencils and liberal use of reds, greens and golds make the space warmer, and yet also lighter, than before.
The menu is fairly small, but the items were enticing enough that the choices didn't seem overly limited. Alcoholic beverages are not served, but patrons may bring their own beer and wine if they desire.
There are four salads, including a Caesar salad and a Greek salad. The Ensalada â“Rusticoâ” composed of fresh field greens, walnuts and gorgonzola with a red wine vinaigrette was especially appealing. I was glad to see that the Capreseâ"vine ripe tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oilâ"was marked â“seasonal.â” In season, tomato and basil season that is, nothing tastes fresher and more delicious than this simple salad. Out of season, it should be regarded with suspicion or contempt.
Since we wanted to share our first course, we ended up deciding to split an appetizer rather than ask the server to divide a salad or divide it ourselves. Preceding a large pizza with either garlic bread (tossed and dusted with parmesan cheese) or bruschetta (salsa of roma tomatoes, red onions, and fresh basil on garlic crostini) sounded a little carb-heavy to us, which left us with the choice of a yummy sounding antipasto salad (better handled by two or more people, the menu warns) or the stuffed mushrooms, which our server recommended and which sounded like the right portion for just the two of us.
Deciding on a pizza was a little harder. There's the basic pie with â“mix and matchâ” toppings, which was reasonably priced at $6 (12-inch) and $9 (16-inch) with a long list of toppings (85 cents each for small, $1.25 each for large) ranging from the usual to the more exotic (smoked salmon, boursin, eggplant).
For my first visit to a pizza place, I like to order from the list of specials, and I like to seek the server's advice. We knew we wanted to try the Margherita (fresh roma tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and red onion), but we had a difficult time deciding between the Milanese (caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, sausage and onions) and the Sicilian (roma tomatoes, garlic, artichoke hearts, black olives, gorgonzola and parmesan). At our server's suggestion, we ordered a large pizza, half Margherita and half Sicilian. Those who like meaty pizzas will appreciate the Carnivore (pepperoni, sausage, ham and homemade meatballs). There's also a Hawaiian (never my favorite, I'll confess) and the Florentine (spinach, artichoke hearts and a creamy parmesan sauce), which I look forward to trying on another visit. The specialty pizzas cost $10-12 for small and $16-18 for large.
The stuffed mushrooms were beautifully presented on a lovely tiered standâ"a plate of five large baked mushrooms, stuffed with sausage, herbs and cheese, lying on a bed of marinara sauce topped with shredded parmesan. We'd planned to eat only a couple and save the rest to go with the leftover pizza we anticipated taking home, but before we knew it four had vanished, and it just seemed silly to save the fifth.
After only a short wait, the pizza appeared. The crust was not too thick, not too thin, with just a slight amount of obviously homemade sauce. The Margherita side was very cheesy along with the ample amount of freshly shredded basil and thinly sliced tomatoes and a sprinkle of chopped red onions. The small chunks of gorgonzola along with the fresh garlic perked up the Sicilian side and nicely combined with the chunks of artichoke hearts, sliced ripe olives and sliced roma tomatoes.
In addition to salads, appetizers and pizza, Lucia's also offers calzones, hoagies and grinders, all in the $7-9 range. I'm not a huge fan of calzonesâ"I'll always go for pizza insteadâ"but a couple of these were pretty tempting: the Philly (shredded beef, onions, cheese and a â“specialâ” spice blend) and, especially, the Lox (smoked salmon, herbed boursin and red onion). Sandwiches include a classic Italian hoagie, ham, pepperoni, salami, lettuce and tomato, lightly dressed with oil and vinegar. There is also a traditional meatball sandwich covered with melted mozzarella and a Jersey grinder (hot shredded beef, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, mushrooms, potatoes and mozzarella) that sounds like particularly hearty fare.
At present, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sundayâ"with carryout and delivery also availableâ"but according to co-owner Aaron Cross, freshly baked pastries and coffee will soon be added to the menu.
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