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REVIEW: Cafe Lucca, Orange

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When I'm home, I tend to eat whenever I'm hungry, which sometimes leads to my eating in a restaurant at an odd hour. The other day around 3 PM I decided I wanted to go to Frog's Breath for some cheese for a simple, late dinner, and I'd grab a sandwich while I was out.

I walked over to Cafe Lucca, just north of the Orange Circle, where I've had some really good gelato.

I went to the counter to order from the Chapman U. emo kid (you know the type -- eyeliner, long coloured hair that covers one soulful eye, etc.).

"I'd like a caprese sandwich, a bottle of Panna water, an espresso and a chocolate-orange madeleine, please."

"What kind of gelato?"

"Huh? No gelato. Caprese sandwich."

"Which sandwich?"

"CAH-PRAY-ZAY. This one [I point to the menu]."

"Tuna?"

"THIS ONE!"

"Oh. OK. And water and a latte?"

"A *bottle of Panna*. Then later an ESPRESSO, and a chocolate-orange madeleine."

"For here or to go?"

"For here."

I paid and sat down.

"Did you want that espresso for here?"

"Sure, but can I get it after my sandwich?"

"Sure."

A minute later, out come... the espresso and the madeleine. Whatever. I was hungry, I'm not going to let the espresso cool, and I'm convinced by this point that the staff are all totally stoned, or else it's opposite day, or maybe Pope Benedict dropped a couple more days out of the calendar and it's April Fools' already. But...

"Do you think I might have some sugar? And a spoon?"

"Um, OK."

The spoon arrived, but no sugar -- I went to the counter and got it myself. I had dessert first. The madeleine was REALLY good and the espresso, though premature, was well-made, good crema.

Next came the sandwich -- fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil en chiffonade and (don't ask me why) citrus vinaigrette on a French roll. The sandwich was very tasty, but the roll was totally the kind of French roll you get on airlines in business class. Edible but tough and hard to chew. Odd for a bakery-cafe. It came with some very good orzo salad. I debated whether there were any meat in the orzo salad but, having learned my lesson, I didn't ask. I figured I was going to confession on Saturday anyway. "Forgive me Father for I have sinned, it has been two weeks since my last confession. I think I may have eaten an orzo salad with meat in it. Or maybe pot. It would explain a lot."

But... no water. And Panna isn't cheap, and I paid for it.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I ordered a bottle of Panna water, could I have it, please?"

"Um, you want water?"

"I asked for -- and paid for -- a bottle of Panna water."

The waitress delivers a bottle of Panna water.

"Do you have something I can open the bottle with?"

"It's open."

"I promise you it's not."

I followed her to the counter but was intercepted by Emo Kid. "I'd like you to open the bottle, please, and I'd like you to give me a glass." He did, and a plastic beer mug was procured, and I drank.

It was very tasty food. I enjoyed it quite a lot. But I didn't tip. It was ridiculous. And when I asked for the manager so that I could explain why I didn't tip, I got, "Oh, ummmmmmmm, nobody's here right now."

Go, but be prepared to fend for yourself. And try the gelato -- it's really good.

Cafe Lucca
106 N. Glassell
Orange, CA 92866

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  1. Mr Ubergeek, I have really enjoyed your writing since I started reading this board, and now that you are in my neck of the woods It is even better, as I know many of the restaurants you review.

    I also have noticed slightly flakey service there, but nothing as clueless as you describe.

    Since you are trying new places in the area, you might try Blue Frog Bakery on Glassell just south of the traffic circle, right across from Gabbi's. I just tried it this morning, and quite enjoyed it. I had a breakfast burrito and a blueberry muffin, both quite good. They had some great looking quiche, and REALLY beautiful desserts in the case, which I will have to try another time.

    The menu is small but the food is good, the counter staff not as clueless as you describe above (but I had to remin them about the muffin) and there is a really nice cozy area upstairs with sofas and comfy chairs if you want to relax.

    1 Reply
    1. re: OCchowman

      i agree with you on ubergeek's writing. loved the part about "or else it's opposite day"... lol.

      anyone tried the place next to aldos? it's called mustard cafe and the baked goods looked better then blue frog. haven't tried it but had a cup of the illy coffee - good stuff.

    2. Your experience at Lucca echoes mine. The only enlightenment I can add offer is the fact that the owner has never before operated a restaurant and is primarily inspired by the art of making gelato, not training a staff. He can often be found there at night, making gelato. The place is virtually rudderless at any other time. Delicious gelato, though.

      Clearly, a lot of someone's nest egg was spent creating the place... I won't be surprised if it is for sale in the not-so-faraway future.

      4 Replies
      1. re: OCBites

        I've been to Lucca a bunch of times, and I've found the service generally very good. I really like the food, and it's such a cute place. Maybe give the food experience another try, Ubergeek. Perhaps it was just a particularly bad day/server.

        1. re: chazar

          Does anyone know the prices and/or hours Lucca. I drive by it frequently but now I feel I should stop in.

          1. re: emilymm

            I know they're open fairly late -- we've bought gelato at 9 PM for sure. It has a nice European cafe vibe to it (hammered tin ceilings, Tuscan decor that isn't as overwrought as usual, you can occupy your seat as long as you want after buying something, etc.) which I didn't mention in the review.

            Prices -- sandwiches are $7 to $10, so fairly pricy. Gelato is $2-$5. Bakery items are the price they would be anyplace else. A bit "spendy" (as my South Dakota-dwelling friends would say) but not terrible, and not out of line with the food.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Hi All,

              So I'm one of those Chapman U kids but alas I am not the Emo type. I completely agree with the review of Cafe Lucca. The coffee and espresso is amazing! The Gelato is fantastic (I have some in my freezer right now) however it is really expensive. If you live in the area I suggest buying a pint ($8) or a quart ($14) because you get so much more for your money.

              As for Mustard Cafe. I wasn't the biggest fan of their sandwiches, I definitely prefer Blue Frog. However, I have had some tasty soups and the occasional baked good. However, my vote still sides with Blue Frog every time. Very delicious, very affordable and a great friendly place to go with friends, family or study.