Luce takes 4th Place in Bon Appetit “Best New Restaurants” List

Bon Appetit has published their final list of Best New Restaurants in America”, and one Portland restaurant, Luce made the cut at number 4 on the list of ten.

Here is an excerpt:

… Inside the simple all-white storefront, shelves are lined with dried pasta, olive oil, and carefully curated housewares; 22 seats fill out the space. Is it a market? A restaurant? An installation by a local artist? In a way, it’s all three. Luce, as it turns out, is the second restaurant from chef John Taboada and his wife, Giovanna Parolari, who own longtime Portland favorite Navarre. If Navarre’s Italian food is simple, Luce’s is bare-bones, almost monastic in its affinity for stripping dishes down to their essential ingredients. This is Italian home cooking to its core. Just look at the 20 or so antipasti available: farro pie, roasted beets and carrots, arancine, chicken liver crostini, meatballs—each plate only $2. At first glance, the spaghettini with garlic and hot peppers might look like what you made for your teenager as you were running out the door. But after the first bite—silky, with an alluring kick of heat—you’ll find out you were so wrong. …

In the piece, critic Andrew Knowlton wrote about the types of restaurants appeal to him:

  • Husband-and-wife owners
  • Small dining rooms and even smaller kitchens
  • No reservations and no tablecloths
  • Counter-side seating around the open kitchen
  • Tweezers in the kitchen
  • Tatooed cooks, servers, and sommeliers
  • Rough-hewn handmade plates
  • Record players and random selections of vinyl in the dining room
  • Bargain prix-fixe menus

I find it very interesting that the quality of the food doesn’t show anywhere on his list.

Not knowing anyone who has been to Luce, I checked the Reader Choice 2012 list we put together for Best New Restaurant. Luce was at number 34. Best Italian? Didn’t make the cut. This place is seriously flying under the radar. Anyone been? I’m looking forward to checking it out.

You can read the entire article here.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Michelle says

    Luce is really, really good. Lovely pastas, antipasti. Small but well chosen Italian wine list.

    My guess for why it won’t make a list here is because it’s simple. Honest, good, and simple. There are no bells and whistles, no recreating of the wheel and they don’t follow the standard meat-veg-starch formula. Lastly, they don’t have a pr machine and that is sometimes WAY more influential than the quality of food as to who makes a list or not.

    • JDG says

      Hmm, I don’t think just being “simple” is a valid explanation. Look at the top 5 in FD’s Best New survey: I think Ox, St. Jack, Mi Mero Mole, and Woodsman would all qualify as “simple.”

  2. Liza says

    I have been 4 or 5 times and LOVE it. Everything I’ve had there has been perfect. I want it to succeed, but I also want it to stay under the radar as I love not having to wait for a table!

  3. vrunka says

    The first time I went, I LOVED it and I talked it up to everyone who’d listen. And then I went again and it was decidedly lackluster: sauces all out of balance, strange portioning, frazzled service. Chalking it up to an off night, I visited one more time and just about everything that could be off was. I’ve decided to give it a rest for a while and see if it ever repeats the magic of my first visit. My first thought upon reading that Luce made it on the list was that Andrew Knowlton either only visited one time on a good night or the kitchen knew damn well who he was.

  4. Tracy Ross says

    We went to Luce last October when it appeared on Thrilllist and were extremely unimpressed. Maybe it’s improved since then.

  5. Live To Eat says

    I went with a friend for lunch a few months ago. We were both disappointed, and a little shocked that people were giving it good reviews. Great value? How about 6 tiny lackluster raviolis for $10? Maybe that’s a good deal in NY, but we can do much better in Portland. The space is in a bad location, or maybe it just looks like it from the graffiti tagged windows. That being said, I realize that there are those “off” days in any restaurant and maybe it was just an off day.

  6. Jill-O says

    I’ve been twice. Nothing was awful, but nothing made me want to return again either, after two just OK meals. And I agree that it is a poor value in regard to price/size/ingredients…but I don’t think that would matter as much to me if the food was really great. On pfg.org there’s a post of Zukin’s chicken dish and a pic from the Knowlton review of the same dish…you’d never recognize the two being the same dish…even allowing for professional photo skills. I am guessing that they know who Knowlton is and he got extra special treatment (not based solely on the pic – that was probably taken just for the review).

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