Located just off the locally famous downtown Orange traffic circle, Cafe Lucca is an easy to get to sidewalk cafe with Italian dishes that will get any foodie excited. Sidewalk dining isn't unique to Italy, but they sure have perfected it. The true-to-its-roots Italian food and perfect atmosphere evoke memories of Italy. Cafe Lucca is something special to be experienced.
There's something to be said about going to a place that you have heard nothing about. It makes the experience all the more exciting and rewarding. When you stumble upon a place like Cafe Lucca, the gamble pays off in big ways. When bread was brought out to our table with a plate of oil and pesto, we sensed instantly that we were in for more than just the average.
I often judge a restaurant by the alcohol they have available. Wine is expected at an Italian restaurant and Cafe Lucca definitely provides. While I almost always opt for wine over beer, this trip was an exception. Most places forget about beer and offer up what the masses have been duped into drinking. Not so here. A big list of beers rivals the length of the wine list and right in the middle, I found Duvel. I can't pass up Duvel and the fact that Cafe Lucca has it in small and large sizes won me over before the food even came out.
After a refreshing and simple salad topped with oil and vinegar, our main courses came out. I chose the Mediterranean Fish Soup which you can see pictured above. Mussels, Clams, Shrimp and chunks of fish mixed with pasta noodles sat in an amazing red broth. I fell in love with the Italian methods of presenting sea food, and Cafe Lucca stands toe-to-toe with the restaurants from Italy in flavor and presentation. My wife chose the fettucini alfredo which is a simple dish that is all too often done wrong. Not so at Cafe Lucca. A creamy sauce that somehow managed to feel light topped perfectly cooked fettucini noodles. Sadly, we lacked the gastronomic fortitude to finish our meal with dessert which is a shame because they have a counter of gelato inside that is rumored to be VERY good.
Part of what makes a good Italian restaurant become great is its atmosphere. If you go to Cafe Lucca and the weather is nice (as it almost always is here in Southern California) get one of the tables right on the sidewalk. If you've been to Italy before, you'll see a striking similarity between the atmosphere of Cafe Lucca, and the places you ate in Italy. There's something about simple, fresh Italian food consumed out in the air that makes a person feel euphoric. No matter what is going on in your life, a couple hours spent talking with friends and enjoying some great Italian food can convince you that things aren't all bad. In fact, life is great, and one doesn't need to travel all the way to Italy to see that.