Dining By The Alphabet: L – Luca Italian Grill (CLOSED)

Readers you are in for a treat today. Your fourth blog this week. Before I start, wish me luck for Saturday afternoon, I’ll be attending the Wichita Crawl for Cancer. It’s a charity fundraiser that involves drinking and money going to the KU Wichita Center for Breast Cancer Survivorship and Make-A-Wish. Two things that are near and dear to me.

I’m on Team Beat Cancer. So if you’re attending this weekend be on the lookout for us.

With that said Thursday was a pretty good day. Started off with a nice cool 66 degree breeze going, temperatures didn’t reach over 100 surprisingly enough. If it did, I wasn’t in it. All this is a good enough reason to head out and start on Letter L. Thanks to everybody who threw out some suggestions; I received quite a bit of them. In the end, I wanted to choose a place that was A.) Locally Owned. B.) A place I’ve never been to. and C.) Not a spot in town that everybody and their mother have been to. After narrowing down all the choices given, we settled one on spot finally.

(Drumroll please)

(Wait, you can’t hear a drumroll in a blog. so disregard)

For Letter L, we decided on…

Luca Italian Kitchen
301 N. Mead in Old Town Square

They are located in the old Uptown Bistro at the northwest corner of 2nd and Mead. You can’t miss it. Kansas.com has a copy of their dinner menu here:
They are open every single night of the week. M-TH 11 am to 10 pm, F-Sa. 11 am to 11 pm and 11:30 am to 9 pm on Sundays. So you have options and the place isn’t closed on the one night you just happen to be free like other restaurants in town. That bugs me for whatever reason.

My guest diner this week was Katie. She too is a fan of food. To prove that she is a fan of food, I found out she actually eats food on a daily basis. She says it runs in her family.

I’ve heard VERY mixed reviews on Luca thus far. Some people absolutely hated it, others loved it. So it’s time for me to decide what I think.
Upon arrive at Luca Italian Kitchen it looked pretty upscale inside. All the tables were well decorated. The colors inside were very soothing if that’s your thing. Katie was worried we’d be underdressed in jeans since the time we arrived there most of the patrons were in suits, summer dresses or their Sunday best. I told her as we were being seated, if a guy comes up playing a violin, “we’re leaving”. But it’s not your snooty place whatsoever, people started pouring in less dressier clothes, jeans, dress shorts, etc.

We were greeted right away and seated immediately. Greeted by our friendly server who brought us out waters. A carafe of water was also placed by us but she filled our drinks for us with it and made sure it was always cool. (That’s right; we’re sophisticated folks, that’s how we roll!) She brought us out bread and a plate of olive oil. Don’t ask me why but I took a picture since it fit the whole scene of the place.

Best part of the meal

We decided to start with an appetizer of Ortomare (calamari rings, tentacles, and zucchini lightly breaded and fried. Served with a spicy Marinara sauce.) The marinara sauce was excellent as were the calamari rings and tentacles. They aren’t as big as what you would get at the old Uptown Bistro but the flavor was still good. Katie was weary about trying the tentacles but I eventually got her to try one. She threw up shortly after. OK, I’m totally kidding about that. She really didn’t have much of an opinion on it. The look of a purple tentacle didn’t look appealing to her but she enjoyed the rest.

We also had a glass of wine and a beer, both very reasonably priced.

It took us a while to decide what to order. All the menu categories were not in English. For instance, appetizers were listed as “Antipasti”, salads were “Insalate”, pizza was “pizza”, pasta was “paste” but let me interject if the 5 year old me saw paste on a menu, I’d be all over it! Our server came over to take our order and Katie ended up on the Di Arugula (Arugula, crispy pancetta, and parmesan cheese. Served with a fresh lemon dressing). Having never been to Luca, I asked our server what the most popular items on the menu were and what she’d recommend. She immediately pointed out the Gnocchi Al Pesto and the Rigatoni Bolognese (Homemade rigatoni with a classic Bolognese sauce). She actually pointed out that the latter was her favorite so I said, “what the hell, let’s go for it.” I should have said hey instead of hell in a setting like that. Dangit!

Moments go by, our server comes out to check on us, fill up on drinks. You know, the usual. Then our entrees come out a little after that. Smelled fresh, was very warm (well not Katie’s salad). So we dug in.

Jarod from Subway better watch out,
this looks healthier!

Katie immediately said her salad was very good. The bacon was cooked right; the salad was very green and had a fresh look. Fresh as in new, not cool. She found it very tasty. Seriously though, I can’t tell you enough how green it was. Probably the greenest salad I’ve ever seen. It’s like the cook took a green crayon and melted it over the leaves.

I, on the other hand, was less than pleased with my Rigatoni Bolognese. The meat was good but the sauce just had an awkward flavor that didn’t appeal to me. Maybe someone else but it just wasn’t my thing. The homemade rigatoni was cooked perfectly but it too had a different taste to it which didn’t appeal to me either. Total matter of opinion. But I didn’t finish it and had it boxed up. If any of my neighbors are reading this, you’re free to swing by and pick it up. I kind of wish I ordered something else so I just dug back in to the appetizer.

I can’t cook but I think I could do better.

We had a chance to discuss our thoughts on Luca after the meal and we both agreed the service was truly excellent. Our server constantly had our drinks filled, was very friendly, came by and checked up on us but did it at perfect time intervals (not too much, not too little). The prices are comparable to what you’d pay at other Italian stops. The pasta meals all ranged from $13-18. The salads were $9-11. The entrees like KC Strip, chicken breast, halibut, lamb chop all ranged from $18-29. Our dinner total came up to $52 and that’s with a glass of wine, beer, appetizer and two entrees. We both felt very differently on our dinner items. She loved hers, I wasn’t too pleased.

In the end for me rating the place, it came down to the food. Service. Great. Prices. Very Comparable. Food…..ehhhhh….. I’d like to try it again and hopefully get something better. I was hoping at an Italian place, they’d have the pasta part down.

Katie in the end was so happy with Luca, she gave the place a perfect score of a 5. After some thought, I decided to go with a 2.5 since the food was the biggest part of my review. Please note, this could easily change for you if you order something differently. Service and Price are spot on and the food; don’t go the Rigatoni Bolognese route. So according to Wichita By E.B.’s super scientific scale, Luca Italian Grill gets a 3.75.

I’d like to thank Katie for coming out to Letter L and all of you for taking the time to read this. If Sesame Street taught me anything, Letter M is next up on the list.

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