Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Luciano's East Bay St

 A winning raffle ticket, whose prize was a voucher towards dinner at Luciano’s, provided this month’s choice of restaurant.  Luciano’s is one of the heavyweights of the Nassau restaurant scene and has a reputation for consistently good Italian. Although familiar to  me, approaching the entrance to the elegant villa still felt dramatic, even though I had been to Luciano’s several times. Flanked by doormen and fronted by illuminated palm trees, stepping inside the marble clad hallway with its sweeping staircase brings to mind gangster flicks from a bygone era.
The Juggernaut and I were led through to a well positioned table at the water’s edge, with a million dollar view over the glittering marina. Many a holiday shot taking in the gleaming towers of Atlantis must have been taken from this vantage point. There was a mixture of tourists in the know and locals occupying the patio area.
A smooth waiter glided up immediately to offer us water, ‘officially’ introduce himself, adjust the table settings and generally inspire confidence that we would be looked after. He left us with the promise of warm bread upon his return. Good man. We exhaled deeply and took in our splendid surroundings.
Back in two shakes of a lambs’ tail, he proceeded to tell us about the specials. We sat mesmerised as a stream of superlatives poured forth from his mouth. It was an impressive performance. He went into fine detail about what was on offer tonight. Every now and then I would catch a key word such as ‘wedge of lemon’ or red snapper’.  He went off as we absorbed all this information and examined the menu. There was a section entitled ‘Cucina Lite; for those of our guests who are watching their intake of calories, fat, cholesterol or sodium’ These virtuous dishes included Chicken Cacciatore, Linguine pomodoro  or Veal limone. I could see several other diners who might want to consider ordering from this section.
The appetisers included grilled calamari ($10) Eggplant melanzane ($9) and Cacciuco fisherman’s soup ($15). There was a vast range of entrees, from linguine vongole $27, gnocchi with wild mushrooms $26 to New York Strip steak $37, which was corn fed and sourced from the Mid West.
We placed our order and slurped away contentedly at our chilled glasses of Gavi. The warm bread and caponata helped to stave off our growing hunger pangs. The shared starter of cracked conch cakes arrived already divided between two plates. Great attention to detail. I was reminded how sharp the service is here. The wedge of lemon was wrapped in linen, to avoid any pesky little pips landing on the food, a nice touch too.  The conch cakes were packed with tender chunks of conch, well seasoned and with a polite kick from the pepper.The Juggernaut exclaimed, “I like”.
A nearby table was getting the Happy Birthday treatment; a troupe of waiter percussionists and singers serenading the chosen one. They really do go that extra mile to make it a night to remember. A bit over the top for my British sensibilities; I’d find it all too embarrassing.
Our main courses came out looking heavenly. My ginormous shrimps reclined on  a pillow of some-sort-of-orzo-like-pasta-whose-name-I’ve-forgotten, with another linen clad lemon and some spinach. The shrimps were steaming, succulent, fabulous. The pasta was lightly dressed with parsley, olive oil and lemon but a heavy dose of black pepper  almost entirely obliterated the other flavours. I felt it could have been better.
J had the special red snapper broth on angel hair pasta. This was a masterclass in the cooking of fish. The snapper was so fresh it melted in the mouth. The broth, fragrant with tomato, garlic, fennel was delicate and absolutely divine. I was really gutted I hadn’t chosen it. Whilst waxing lyrical about this gastronomic stroke of genius our wine was topped up and checks were made on our progress. Our waiter dropped in a few Italian words to show us his skills. Service was faultless.
Clearing our plates, our waiter asked if we were ready for the best part of the meal. I assumed he meant dessert and not the bill. He went on to entice us with offers of cannoli, homemade ice cream and the eponymous tiramisu but we were spent. We basked in a post dinner glow under a string of fairy lights. The water shimmered in the moonlight. Yachts bobbed gently in the breeze. I felt contented and fulfilled. It all was terribly romantic. Then there was a crack of thunder, the heavens opened and we along with hordes of other diners ran for cover inside. Rather than dampening our spirits the downpour added a certain dramatic finale to our dinner, something Luciano’s does well.