Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Carmel: Cantinetta Luca

Every late January or early February, my lab makes a day trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea for the Western Society for Pediatric Research.  Lunch during our most recent Carmel day was at Cantinetta Luca, an airy restaurant with attractive dark wood tables, plenty of seating, and a semi-open kitchen.  First, two small loaves of good bread were set down with a tapenade of olives/olive oil/sun-dried tomato, if I recall correctly.

Friend/colleague Alec and I decided to share a pizza and a pasta, since both categories sounded pretty tasty.  Our pasta was the pappardelle alla bolognese, and it turned out to be some of the best pasta I have ever had.  Luca serves fresh handmade pasta, and the precise texture (a balance of elastic and chewy) was displayed at its best in pappardelle form.  The bolognese was zesty and also a little bit creamy.  Perfect!  The pasta portions here aren't huge, but I actually found this one perfectly adequate, even when shared.  After finishing the pasta, the remaining pool of bolognese provided an excellent dip for some more bread :-).

We also had the broccoli pizza, which was a thin-crusted pizza with broccoli, potatoes, bacon, and broccolini.  The middle of the pizza was pleasantly droopy, and there was a tangible but not overpowering amount of grease.  I think a salad would have been a better pairing for this pizza, which was a little too heavy - and also a little outshone - next to the stellar pasta.  (Even I have my limits!)  Two other people at our table did share and enjoy a salad + pizza combination.

Carmel is one of my favorite places to visit, and the town's profusion of wonderful restaurants certainly contributes to that designation.  Along with Dametra Cafe, Luca has just been added to my must-return-to list.