By Cat Wurdack
2140 E Burnside St.
Open 7 Days 11 am – 10 pm
Since the hoopla of being named among Bon Appetit’s 10 Best New Restaurants in America in 2012, Luce — the good and simple neighborhood Italian restaurant that is equal part euro-pantry and Nonna’s effortlessly cool kitchen — has returned to a comfortable hum. Owners John Taboada and Giovanna Parolari seem relieved.
“It was like a faucet being turned on full blast, like shifting from 2nd to 4th gear,” Taboada said about the wild ride that followed the celebrity most restaurateurs only dream about. “We sputtered a bit.”
For months after news of the award, diners from near and far queued up along E Burnside sometimes for as long as two hours to sit down to grilled hanger steak with garlic and rosemary, baked stuffed trout, and perfectly marinated beets and carrots as well as other simple, satisfying dishes that have distinguished Taboada’s less-is-more style of Italian home cooking.
“It was unexpected and generous,” Taboada said of the astonishing groundswell of national interest and community support.
Two years later, the lines are gone and the sweet corner restaurant at E Burnside and 22nd St. with its cozy modern design, black and white linoleum floor, and colorful Italian foodstuffs for sale (dried Calabrian peppers, black rice, oils and vinegars) continues to please.
During lunch, Luce is bright with natural light from east and north -facing windows. At night, it flickers with votive candles.
The menu is organized in the traditional Italian way – antipasti, salad, soup (cappelletti in brodo and white bean with kale), pasta, specials, and desserts. How you order is entirely up to you. No single dish is more than $20.
Specials start at $16 and top out at $20 right now for the house-made linguine with fresh Dungeness crab and green onion in a wine reduction, a seasonal special.
Winter specials include chard with butter and parmesan and, for dessert, baked pear with Lambrusco and mascarpone. French press Heart coffee and a variety of carefully-curated Italian wines round out the meal.
Pasta and focaccia are made fresh each day. There are three kinds of focaccia: golden raisin (which goes remarkably well with just about everything), onion, and plain (salt). Take home a square for later.
Everything on the menu is available for lunch or dinner from 11 am to 11 pm daily. For parties of five or more, reservations are suggested.