At it’s most basic, food is nothing more than fuel to complete daily tasks. I’m as guilty as anyone of not stopping to actually taste what I am putting into my mouth between classes and work. But Lucca is the kind of restaurant that reminds you why it is such a cherished tradition to enjoy, experience, and savor the food we put into our bodies.

Recently, a friend of mine moved to Des Moines from Chicago, and when we made plans to get together for dinner I knew exactly where I wanted to go. She was game for anywhere, so I hastily seized the opportunity to suggest Lucca, a restaurant I had heard rave reviews about.

The atmosphere is clean and modern without feeling cold, like so many ‘modern’ restaurants. A $28 prix fixe menu, which includes a primi and secondi plate, has no descriptors on it, just one or two word indicators. Waiters graciously explain the menu in detail, and believe me, every dish begins to sound irresistible. And the wine. Each glass under $10, my glass was a brilliant pinot nior from Oregon.

But no matter how brilliant the wine, it was nothing compared to the food. I think I will go to bed tonight and dream of gnocchi, my primi selection. It wasn’t served in a heaping bowl, but rather a moderate portion, which I always appreciate when tempted to overindulge. These small little pillows of heaven were served in a light butter sauce, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and a sprinkling of parsley. Perfectly seasoned, there was no need to add salt….thankfully so, since the table was devoid of salt and pepper.

The secondi was no less marvelous. Three large, plump scallops were served with a trio of shredded vegetables atop what I believe was a roasted pepper sauce, though I could be mistaken. Scallops, in my mind, are a tricky thing. Nothing ruins a beautiful scallop for me more than the gritty texture of sand. Thankfully I experienced no such thing, and was able to enjoy the beautiful crispness of the scallops, paired with the creamy sauce and shredded vegetables.

I realize I am gushing about Lucca like a middle school girl talks about a crush, but the food really was that good. Anyone in the Des Moines, Iowa, area should make sure to stop by this little gem in the East Village. I promise, if your meal is anything like mine, you won’t leave disappointed.

Madison

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