Oh yeah! This week, and any week’s obsession, Lucca Cafe’s Own Cured and Braised Crispy Pork Belly, on a bed of corn kernel and mascarpone polenta, topped with a slather of dried apricot chutney: the sticky sweet apricot is the perfect foil for the crisped porcine richness and creamy polenta wraps each bite with a silken finish. I’m hot just describing it! My fellow food writer Anne Marie declares “compounding flavors transforms any rowdy table into one where chewing and silent worship rule”, and that, my friends, is the “occasional indulgence to drool over” that I refer to (see sidebar).
Obviously, you know from the title that said dish can be had at Lucca Cafe which, lucky for us, is located in a typical shopping center in Irvine, conveniently accessible from the 405 freeway. Lucca Cafe is redefining happy hour and bar food every day of the week from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. with their Bar Snacks menu. Small plates continue to be popular – they’re easy on the wallet and guests are able to experience many different dishes and leave full and satisfied. Enjoying them in a European-type bistro like Lucca is the perfect way to end a hectic day or set the tone for the rest of your evening.
Bresaola hand rolls | poached pears, baby arugula, balsamic reduction, lemon creme fraiche
All of owner Chef Cathy Pavlos’ menus are based on the use of healthy and high quality ingredients, such as certified Angus beef, free-range turkey, hormone-free chicken, wild salmon and locally grown organic produce. The idea behind the small plates is to let the creativity talents of chefs in the kitchen shine, so the menu changes weekly and reflects the changing seasons and the best of the local markets.
For me, the Giao burrata in a basil pesto bath, drizzled with balsamic, accented with a single sublime roasted tomato, epitomizes the quality of their sourcing – surpassing many housemade burratas I’ve experienced.
Always important: The bar features more than 30 wines by the glass, with a choice of 2.5-ounce or 6-ounce pour of wine for $5 to $14. Lucca’s European bent carries through to the wine list where 2/3 of the wines are of European origin and 1/3 domestic. From 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. they have special wines by the glass for $6.00 and imported and microbrew beers, $4.00 – $6.00.
Other highlights of the menu on this night:
Tempura Sand Dabs | Fennel slaw
New Zealand lamb chops | cumin and cinnamon scented, mint/parsley yogurt
Crab-stuffed wild jumbo shrimp | wrapped in prosciutto, fiery sauce
Blue Cheese tart | gorgonzola, cippolini onions in agrodolce, port wine reduction
Angus beef short ribs | braised in balsamic and red wine , yukon mash, horseradish creme fraiche
The entire menu is priced from $5.00 to $8.00 – an unbelievable bargain, especially considering this is not your usual simplistic bar fare. Before leaving, treat yourself with dessert from the regular dinner menu; like the Italian Affogato – one scoop of handmade vanilla bean ice cream with a double shot of Lavazza espresso, fresh whipped cream and chocolate chips:
or this decadent LUCCA Brownie warmed in a skillet with locally made goat’s milk ice cream and fresh berries. Can I get a second “Oh yeah” ?!
6507 Quail Hill Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92603