Kirkland's Lucia looks good, but the food could use more work
Like many women of a certain age, Mama Lucia has had some work done. This Kirkland restaurant, long a fixture in Parkplace Center, is now...
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|Grilled Romaine Salad||$11|
|Pizza with Pesto and Eggplant||$12|
|Kobe Beef Filet Mignon||$26|
222 Parkplace Center, Kirkland
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; dinner 4-10 p.m. Mondays- Thursdays, 4-11 p.m. Fridays, 3-11 p.m. Saturdays, 3-10 p.m. Sundays.
Prices: $$ (lunch $8.95-$13.95; dinner appetizers $5.50-$12; entrees $9-$26)
Drinks: Full bar; small, mostly Italian wine list.
Parking: Free in lot.
Sound: Very loud.
Who should go: If you're in the neighborhood, come for pizza, pasta or a cucumber ginger martini.
Credit cards: AmEx, Visa, MasterCard.
Access: No obstacles.
Like many women of a certain age, Mama Lucia has had some work done.
This Kirkland restaurant, long a fixture in Parkplace Center, is now known simply as Lucia. Her new look is chic, sleek and contemporary. The red-checked tablecloths are gone, replaced by faux marble tables that are bare and pale, in line with a fresh color scheme of black, white and silver, with splashes of flaming orange in the sexy new lounge.
Lucia has loosened her bun, tossed away her glasses and shortened her skirt. You wouldn't recognize her, until you open the menu and see that, along with things like tuna tartar and filet mignon, you can still get pasta, pizza and parmigiana.
Owner Mike Halter is the young restaurateur behind the remix. His family owned the restaurant for 20 years. He took over last fall, expanding into the adjacent storefront and applying some L.A. gloss. The bait seems to be working: Weeknights or weekends, reservations are a good idea if you don't want to wait for a table.
If you do find yourself stuck in a queue at the door, head for the bar and treat yourself to a cucumber ginger martini. The bartender is an accommodating gent who treats newcomers like regulars. He took pampering to new heights when he offered to recite the menu to a customer who'd forgotten his reading glasses.
The rest of the youthful staff is equally anxious to please, but food-wise Lucia's performance is erratic.
Despite the menu's ambitions, a lot of people still come for pizzas, and I can see why. The thin, breadlike crust is impressive, and I like the fact that they aren't overloaded with cheese. The tomato sauce is bright with a touch of sweetness, but I really fell for the pie sauced with a garlicky, peppery pesto and topped with mozzarella, feta and chunks of sweet roasted eggplant. Pinenuts, which the kitchen forgot, would have been a nice addition.
Less alluring was a caramelized pear and onion pizzetta, a good idea gone wrong with too much gorgonzola cream sauce and so sweet it's more like dessert than a starter.
Clunky sauces undermined some entrees as well. A gelatinous beurre blanc accompanied chicken Milanese, an otherwise perfectly nice chicken breast that was flattened, breaded and sautéed to a golden finish. Remarkably tender braised pork roast was burdened with cheesy pink gravy that was so salty and heavily herbed it grew tiresome after a few bites.
Kobe filet mignon stood out among these overwrought entrees for a subtle port demi glace moistening an impeccably cooked, incredibly supple steak. But the sautéed green beans and mashed potatoes with it were overloaded with garlic, and a side of mushroom risotto lacked salt.
Pasta sauces show more finesse. Lush white-wine cream sauce swaddling chicken cannelloni was delicately poised between sharp and rich, a pleasing counterpoint to the earthy blend of herbs, mushroom and diced chicken that filled those rolls of pasta. Tagliatelle sported a fine Bolognese sauce, thick with meat and resonant with tomato flavor.
A bright, spicy Puttanesca sauce studded with capers and cured black olives is among four sauces offered with spaghetti. For a few dollars extra, add half a dozen shrimp; it's well worth doing.
The lunch menu, an abridged version of the dinner card, is geared to get customers in and out with alacrity. If you want something filling, I recommend the meatball sub. A warm crusty bun holds two sturdy, well-seasoned orbs slathered in sauce and cheese. You'll get a choice of tomato basil soup or salad; opt for salad, as the soup is so thick it could double as pasta sauce.
Salads are a good way to go in general. The Caesar dressing is zesty with anchovy, and the romaine, red onion and roasted beet salad comes with warm goat-cheese croutons. The creamy gorgonzola sauce that so overwhelmed the pizzetta is perfect over grilled romaine hearts, lightly charred, pale green canoes filled with crispy bacon bits and crumbled gorgonzola. Ask to split any of these and the kitchen does it for you, arranging them prettily on separate plates.
Definitely share dessert, but avoid the tiramisu, so dry that a fork could barely make it through the layers of cream and cake. Berry cobbler, which the waiter recommended over chocolate soufflé, was soupy but packed with raspberries and blueberries and topped with vanilla ice cream.
The crowd that frequents Lucia looks as good as the restaurant. There are those who drop by in expensive exercise clothes with gym bag in hand. Others are dressed to kill. On looks alone, you could fall hard for Lucia. But the way to restaurantgoers' hearts is through their stomachs, and in that regard, Lucia could use a little more work.
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
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