BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT (NOT CHEAP) - 2004
Looking into a bowl of adeptly tender pappardelle con funghi the other night at Ristorante Luci, we were struck by the agile playfulness of the dish. It was merely a bowl of pasta, but in among the al dente swaths of pappardelle, grassy tips of asparagus nipped happily, herbily, at peppery slices of shiitake mushroom, the two glossed with brown butter, each forkful a landscape of forest in springtime. We looked up from the dish and contemplated our lovely $28 bottle of 1999 Barbera, typical of this little restaurant that buys wine early and cheap and cellars it for a while, without ever seeming to raise the prices accordingly. We looked at the terra-cotta walls smiling down on the cheery tables, we listened to the laughter echoing off the walls, and we marveled, just marveled to ourselves: This is one of the best bowls of pasta in memory, and it's merely the primi in a $25.95 four-course feast! No wonder Ristorante Luci has been a Twin Cities favorite all these years. We settled back in our chairs and let the rest of the evening wash over us, and rest assured, the rest of the courses, the seared pork with sage risotto, the spicy potato soup, the tuna tartare, were just as good as that pasta.