While this area has no shortage of Italian restaurants, picking out the ones worth your time can be a challenge. Luce definitely rises to the top of this list, distinguishing itself with a creative menu and attentive kitchen and staff. A fixture on the Caldwell restaurant scene since 2001, Luce revamped its image and menu in 2011. They brought in Executive Chef Steve Saragnese (formerly of Babbo in NYC and Vetri in Philadelphia) to shake up their traditional Italian fare. Saragnese now serves an eclectic twist on Italian classics, showcasing a keen appreciation for flavor combinations and fresh, seasonal ingredients.
When I had dinner at Luce last week, I was impressed with the number of specials tacked on to their regular menu. The favorite that stood out was the butternut squash ravioli. Pillowy and light, filled with silky butternut squash purée and swathed in a nutty brown butter sauce, and topped with parmesan and crispy sage, it’s the perfect cold-weather pasta dish. The flatbread we tried was also a special, and hit all the right notes with creamy fontina cheese, peppery arugula, and crispy bacon. The flatbread was sprinkled judiciously with truffle oil, such that it didn’t overpower but elevated the whole dish. The Toasted bread with provolone cheese and roasted red pepper purée also delivered a serious flavor punch. What it lacked in beauty it made up for in taste; the sharp provolone and the tangy red pepper purée balanced perfectly, and the bread had a nice crunch. The eggplant caponata that comes with warm bread at the start of your meal is also a real standout, setting the tone for a flavor-packed meal.
Luce offers an ample entrée menu, complete with standouts like Berkshire pork chop, filet mignon, gingered tuna, and wild Scottish salmon. For our dinner, we tried the grouper, accompanied by whipped potatoes and garlic spinach. The fish was flaky and tender, and served with just the right amount of creamy, garlicky sauce. We also tried the shrimp, served over a risotto with garlic spinach. Everything was cooked and seasoned beautifully no complaints from out table! For dessert we had Luce’s homemade brownie served with espresso chip ice cream and an espresso chocolate reduction. Rich, dark, and chocolaty- it hit the spot.
Everyone at Luce, from the owners to the kitchen to the staff are warm, friendly, and helpful. Prices are reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients and the attention to detail. Though they don’t have a liquor license, Luce provides a wine list and will place an order for prompt delivery to your table. If you haven’t tried Luce, or haven’t been in years, give it a try- you’ll be impressed!