REVIEW: Lucas Ristorante: a diamond in a dump

Written by: Jamie Strickland

Lucas Restorante is a charming BYOB restaurant that is, unfortunately, lost in the disgrace that is Country Plaza, a strip mall located off Route 27 in Somerset, NJ between an auto repair shop and another strip mall.

Prices at Lucas are moderately high, for example it is $18 for chicken parmesan. On a student budget it might be a place to go for a special occasion or treat. But portion sizes are large so you will likely have leftovers to take home. Service can be slow, and the decor is kitchy, but it’s worth it because the food is terrific.

According to chef/owner Andrea Di Meglio, Lucas Restorante was established in 1994 as “just another” pizza place. Within the past nine years, Meglio transformed his restaurant so as to resemble the island Ischia, his birthplace.

“I couldn’t take pizza anymore,” said Meglio, “I wanted to bring Italy here.”

On entering the restaurant one finds stone tiles, porcelain vases, a replica of an exterior brick wall from an old Italian villa, and a trellis with artificial grape vines set the ambiance. The room is lit by small chandeliers and the walls feature hand painted murals of Italy. Soft Italian music plays and candles flicker on the cramped tables.

The Bruschetta Caprese, a typical appetizer, includes two pieces of toasted focaccia topped with a mound of chopped tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with basil. The taste is buttery and tangy with a hint of garlic. The bread is appropriately softened by the toppings, but still has a good amount of crunch.

For a starter, the crab meat and corn soup is excellent. It is served in a small pot like bowl, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and garnished with two crisp breadsticks. The soup is thick, creamy and filled with lumps of fresh crab meat. The corn adds a perfect sweet taste. I didn’t want to stop eating but the soup was very filling and there was more food to come.

The Shrimp Nuovi is comprised of shrimp, crab, bay scallops, asparagus, capers and roasted tomatoes in a creamy white wine sauce over linguini. The dish is beautifully plated and sprinkled with basil. No taste over powers the other. The sauce is thick and creamy, similar to the soup, and covers every inch of the plate. The shrimp have just the right crunch without being over cooked. Every bite features different flavors, from the bitterness of the asparagus to the soft buttery taste of the fresh crab. The scallops are cooked perfectly and absorb the rich flavor of the sauce.

First time customer Milly Perez from South Brunswick said she ordered the Chicken Frances and it was amazing. “The price is a little high, but the food is defiantly worth it,” said Perez.

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