LAKE STEVENS — Eggplant. It can so easily be turned into a mushy mess in the wrong hands.
I was fondly thinking of my mom’s eggplant sandwiches while looking over the menu at Luca’s Ristorante. Mom would dip the slices in an egg batter and breading, then fry them, and, if she was having an on night, they’d end up more crunchy than soggy between the two slices of toasted bread.
I took the chance and ordered the eggplant Parmesan at Luca’s.
It was totally worth the risk.
In fact, everything my family and I ordered at Luca’s was delicious, beautifully presented and totally gone.
It was the kind of Italian food that reminded me of back east on Long Island.
Luca’s is located in a strip mall, but that is absolutely not a factor after you walk in.
The restaurant is warm with richly colored walls, soft lighting and dark-stained wood. The music began as piped-in Sinatra and other Italian-inspired tunes, but soon enough two young men began performing, one with a guitar and the other with a mandolin.
My husband and I started off with a Caprese salad ($11) that was lovely to look at with swirlings of olive oil and balsamic vinegar surrounding a pile of freshness that included firm tomatoes and soft mozzarella and basil. My preference would have been more basil but the salad didn’t need it.
Our 8-year-old son started with a basket of bread and a fizzy lemonade that he had never had before. He wound up drinking the whole thing.
The drink was recommended by our friendly, efficient and helpful server, who had delivered us to our table equipped with crayons and a kid menu to color on.
I ordered the eggplant Parmesan ($13) for my entree and was so pleased that I didn’t want to share (but I did). The dish came sizzling hot and the sauce was bubbling.
This was the real thing as far as I was concerned: The food piled up like a lasagna in a perfect square and the thinly sliced battered and fried eggplant kept its shape with just the right amount of mozzarella helping it do so. The sauce had basil and was spiced just right.
My husband ordered the night’s special: lobster cannelloni ($17.99), a lobster and ricotta cheese mixture stuffed inside two long pasta tubes. The dish had a lovely, salmony color and a delicate taste of lobster. The ricotta was rich and creamy.
Our son had the penne pasta without cheese ($5.95). He declared, “This is some of the best pasta I’ve ever had.”
Luca Nasti is from Naples and writes on the restaurant’s website that all meals are made from fresh ingredients in an effort to capture traditional and authentic Italian food, the pasta is homemade and the pizza is made in a wood-fired oven.
I looked around at other families dining with tables topped with pizzas. Our son doesn’t eat pizza and at that moment I was truly disappointed by that because all the pizzas looked like ones I wanted to try.
Luca’s also offers gluten-free pizza and pasta and caters to customers by providing specials such as 50 percent off wine on Tuesdays and kids-eat-free Mondays.
For dessert, my husband and I split a cheesecake and we each had an espresso. The cheesecake and some other desserts are made on site and a few desserts, such as the Black Forest cake, are shipped from Italy.
The espresso, served in adorable demi cups, was robust, and the cheesecake was the way cheesecake should be made: stick-to-the-fork filling encased in a crust that was slightly toasted. I will quote my son by saying, “That was some of the best cheesecake I’ve ever had.”
The whole Luca’s experience was perfecto.
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luca’s Ristorante &Pizzeria
• 430 91st Ave. NE, No. 10, Lake Stevens; 425-334-2066; www.lucasitalianrestaurant.com.
• Specialty: Southern Italian favorites.
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
• Price range: Moderate.
• Liquor: Full bar.
• Reservations: Recommended.
• Vegetarian options: Yes.