Luce for Lunch (Hamden, CT)
Luce used to be Rafaello's. it's still on their front door. Very confusing; but it's been that way for years.
I/we have been to Rafaello's and then Luce many times. We just dropped a chunk of change for lunch. Service was so-so and two of the main courses were under-cooked. They were out of the wine I wanted and the one (red) I got was too cold. They didn't offer to do anything about it. They were out of a dessert we ordered.
The clams and mussels were very good while the fried calamari was slightly undercooked and the red sauce totally uninspired. The dinner salads were over-dressed and the slice of carrot, rubbery. I thought my Uceletti Ticinese (veal roll with spinach, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese), was poor because it was so undercooked inside. No flavors were melded at all and the veal was chewy and pink. One person's chicken had a pink area.
This has changed my perception of Luce. I don't feel I can recommend it as one of the area's best any longer.
That is horrible to hear for a place that was once the top of list. I haven't eaten there in oooo maybe 15 years or so, but I can remember that the food was excellent and the service was the best. Tough times ahead.
I wanted to follow up with some pictures. The place is very nice; the interior is equal to Tre Scalini.
Desserts were OK. We had three of them. The warm apple tart seemed to be a flop as nobody was interested in it; so I did not try it. I thought the chocolate drizzled over two of the desserts was a joke. Perhaps they let a busboy do it.
Be forewarned: You have to put up with a Flash presentation on the splash page of their website before you can get to anything else.
Edit: yes, they seem to have an extensive wine list, but like some other places recently, they were out of the first wine I wanted (and it was a fairly standard California wine that was $50).
I hadn't eaten at Luce for several years, but when friends made reservations a few months ago, we joined them. Frankly, we, too, were very disappointed. The food was, at best, unremarkable, and service bordered on amateurish - certainly not what you would expect at what are definitely upscale prices (well...they are for Italian restaurants in the New Haven area). Additionally, with a jam packed dining room, the noise was almost unbearable. There is no denying that their wine list is a killer, but for Italian cuisine, there are far better places in the area. Obviously, given the crowd, my opinion represents a minority view!
I had to follow up with a reflection on our dinner last week, at Luce. While I have been somewhat disparaging or at least had mixed feelings and results, we go back there because it is easy to get to, better than most of what is available to us, without driving into downtown New Haven, and it is a quiet, classy setting.
This was better food than last time. We started by ordering a bottle of wine that was about $40. They were out of it. So, once again, a place noted for its deep cellar, was out of what I wanted! If you look, you will not find wine by the glass mentioned anywhere (that I could find), yet they do serve it. SO did that and her two glasses of cab were decent. I got a half-bottle of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay ($23). I though it a poor value upon tasting it. Getting a drink took a while and then my bottle sat on the table in front of me, for minutes, as our waitress had disappeared. SO got her glass of wine and I received an unopened bottle! I got up to get someone to open it just as she reappeared.
We had crab cakes ($14), which were quite good and crabby.
You get a "complimentary" dinner salad with any entrée; they gave both of us a salad even though SO only ordered a soup appetizer. The salad was not old and limp this time.
SO had the scarola con fagioile ($7), a meatless "escarole and white kidney beans, in chicken stock". It was rather bland.
I had halibut ($26), which was cooked perfectly with tomatoes, garlic, a few mussels and huge caper berries, over angel hair pasta and I think it was supposed to be cooked with white wine. The fish and pasta was very good, but I thought the dish simple, rather plain and without any complex flavors. Our waitress did not give me anything to put my shells on.
Though the food is more than passable I feel Luce is slipping in my favor and the esteem I have held it in. Gaps in their wine list, sitting us at an exposed two-top (when they were NOT busy), when there were many four-tops available, away from the main aisle, no place to put my shells, no crumbing of the table and ho-hum flavors left me lacking for the $93 check. I think we are going to have to revisit Tre Scallini or L'Orcio next time and compare.
If you want to visit their website it is http://www.ristoranteluce.net/default..., but you have to twiddle your thumbs for a while till the Flash intro finishes!
A viable alternative to Luce , and considerably less expensive is Ludal in North Haven. I know, it's in a strip mall, but the food and beverage menu is exceptional and service is warm and hospitable. Very nice decor - you would not know you're in a strip mall. The place does not dissapoint.
Thanks. We may have to try it. Except for two years ago (here), it's not on anybody's radar except YELP! They mentioned a big screen TV in the room. Is that just in the bar? Is it a reasonably quiet restaurant?
It's in that Bermuda Triangle or "nest of snakes" road area, where I always get lost! I'll have to use the Garmin...
Funny, I had similar experiences here years ago (while it was raffaelo's), and took this restaurant off of my list. So many people have told me I should try again I had been considering it--not now, however.
This does bring up how there are some restos out there that treat two tops like second-class citizens. DH and I could easily drop over $140 per meal at a restaurant, especially one with an interesting wine list. I have great difficulty keeping him away from the $60 and over bottles.
I will not patronize restaurants (and owners)that I feel do not appreciate my business, especially in the current economy. We had similar treatment at Roomba on at least two occasions, after which I said enough was enough. As a result, we will not go to Bespoke/Sabor.
Our current "go to" Italian faves in the New Haven area are:
Tre Scalini - same general price range as Luce but far nice ambience, better food, and significantly better service
LoMonaco's (Branford) - while not a "gourmet" destination, their food is invariably well prepared, the portions are very generous, and their "complimentary" salad is actually worth eatihg. The wine list, while not extensive, has a number of interesting selections at very reasonable prices
Il Forno (Milford) - this has become a real favorite. Without even a permanent sign (after almost two years in business!), their lack of decor is more than offset with really delicious food and unfailingly professional and warm service. The wine list is far more ambitious than one would expect and both food and wine prices are far less than many inferior places. The owner, Juan, is a real gem!
In an area that is virtually exploding with Italian restaurants, these are the ones that we find are consistenly good, both in terms of the food and the overall experience.
I agree. How can you explain treating two people poorly when they may spend $150? Pass and I had dinners all across the South and up the Atlantic coast that exceeded $120. Should we have been sent to Siberia because we were in shorts, wore gimme caps or mussed hair? Usually we were treated very well or even doted on.
When we went to Luce they were about 1/5-1/6 occupied. They were saving all those nice dining spots for the dreamed of late dinner rush? We weren't dressed like slouches, either. What are they thinking? They could have treated us like royalty, at a four top, in a quiet corner and made a lot of points for that (at no extra cost to them).