04 April 2016

Fresh pasta, charming ambiance at Luciana's in Dana Point

After four nights in LA, during our March trip to southern California, we'd become kind of desensitized the high restaurant prices we encountered. So after we left LA for a two-night stay in Dana Point, we were delighted to find that at Luciana's, we got excellent Italian food in a charming, comfortable setting with friendly service ... all for a very reasonable price.

The restaurant was suggested to us by the staff at our hotel in Dana Point, the Blue Lantern. Luciana's is a very short walk from the hotel. We made a reservation, though on a Wednesday night in March it turned out we didn't really need one.

Inside, the restaurant is very warm and inviting. The tables are not crowded together, yet the dining room feels cozy. The decor is rustic. The tables sport white tablecloths.

The menu at Luciana's is quite extensive. We came intending to try the fresh pasta. But the menu includes a tempting list of Italian entrees featuring fish, poultry, or meat. There are vegetarian options available as well as gluten-free. You can get a pasta side-dish to go with your entree.

For starters, you can choose from antipasti, soups, and salads. My wife and I split a spinach salad. It featured fresh spinach and radicchio with thin-sliced apples, goat cheese and Gorgonzola. The dressing was a balsamic vinaigrette, and it was topped with caramelized pecans. I particularly liked the contrast of the slightly bitter radicchio with the sweet apples and the cheeses. The serving size was ample enough for the two of us.

For her entree, my wife ordered 'fettuccine boscaiola.' I wasn't familiar with what a 'boscaiola' sauce for pasta was, but based on what I've read in preparing this post, the version served at Luciana's isn't very typical. My understanding is that boscaiola is usually made with bacon and mushrooms in a garlicky white wine sauce. Linda's entree did have mushrooms and the garlicky white wine sauce. But it also featured shrimp, scallops, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. (It was the seafood that made the dish so appealing to her in the first place.)

My entree was 'linguine Luciana.' It was recommended by our server and is listed on the menu as the restaurant's signature pasta dish. Another seafood dish, it featured clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and calamari. It was topped with a somewhat spicy tomato sauce.

We both loved our entrees. But needless to say, after each eating a whole plate of fresh pasta, we were full and declined dessert. There aren't a lot of desserts on the menu, but traditionalists will be pleased to see tiramisu and creme brulee. Luciana's does have a signature dessert, a flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake served with berries and a scoop of gelato.

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