BON APPÉTIT Restaurant Editor Andrew Knowlton named Luce the number-four most important new restaurant in America, and overnight the quiet little corner café no one seemed to know about was mobbed.
Knowlton's stated criteria were, in sum, a return to simplicity in dining out. It suits the economy: We have less money to spend on restaurants. It suits culinary trends: We have weathered a decade of steadily complicated food and want something familiar. It suits occupational fatigue: A guy who eats out at such an accelerated pace just wants a home-cooked meal.
A large menu of $2 antipasti creates a low-risk sandbox for experimentation. Though the staff humbly describes the small portions as "heaping tablespoons," they are generally at least twice that, and enough for two people to get the idea before moving on.
After these little introductions are a selection of fresh, house-made pastas offered in two sizes, the smaller of which is designed to be ordered if tasting a few other items.
A daily updated assortment of four or five Mediterranean comfort foods, such as eggplant, mussels, and braised meats, rounds out the small selection of specials. Hanger steak with garlic and rosemary, at $10, is a generous, sliced portion of this flavorful butcher's cut, awash in its own juices on a plate with nothing else. Pair the rare meat with the bare-bones charred cabbage wedge ($6) for a stripped-down bistro meal, and savor the liquid with the crisp, chewy, generously oiled fresh focaccia ($3).p>Luce is exactly the restaurant I didn't know I was looking for: affordable, personal, and true to itself.