BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT (NOT CHEAP) - 2005
In seeking out the answer to who serves the best Italian food in the Twin Cities, we encountered some disasters. There was a salt cod that tasted like a salt lick. A pasta carbonara made with rigatoni that floated in a pool of oil beside bacon cracklings. And don't even ask us why crab cakes with mango salsa qualify as Italian. Which is why it was such a joy to tuck in to an evening at Ristorante Luci: The tiny room was bustling with people interested only in food, not in hype, and practically every course sang with simple Italian cooking prowess. Curls of white shrimp were served in a salty bath with slices of fresh and tender artichoke. Homemade mozzarella beamed simply from within a composition of marinated tomatoes and chunks of pickled garlic. The spaghetti carbonara was yellow and custardy, thick with egg yolk, and comforting as a quilt. Seared scallops glistened whitely beneath their mahogany-brown caps of sear and crackle, inviting you to compare them to the truffle zabaglione and gently sautéed mushrooms by which they were surrounded. And the prices aren't high at all: Most everyone seems to order one of the four-course tasting meals that clock in at around $30, and the excellent wine list is available by the bottle, glass, or carafe. Ristorante Luci remains one restaurant dedicated to the soul and spirit of true Italy: pleasure of the senses, for the common man, which proves that heaven smiles upon us.