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A la Lucia, Chef Michael Nayeri's Italian on 315 Madison Street in Old Town Alexandria


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The Washingtonian gave A la Lucia one of the their "Critic's Choice" awards in this year's Cheap Eats edition. They say it's owned by the longtime maitre d' at Galileo. Has anyone been? Is it deserving of attention? Older kid friendly? Thanks in advance.

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I have been to A la Lucia. It's located a bit off the beaten path in Old Town Alexandria. I was really impressed with their food and their prices. The service was also warm and friendly. And I love seeing Michael there each time I visit (Michael is the former Galileo fixture). This is definite "local joint" material.

The place is TINY - seats maybe 40 people. So if you go at a peak time, you might have to wait a bit. The decor is ok - nothing over the top. But trust me - you're not there for the decor.

My friend had the salmon pasta and it was fabulous. I had a wonderful pasta with a meaty, full-flavored ragout - and it was amazing. And each was like $12. Unbelievable.

Wines are nice - and inexpensive.

Overall, I think Washingtonian nailed it on this one. I'm so glad to see the restaurant getting some attention. Definitely check it out.

Oh - and you asked if it was older kid friendly. I'd say definitely. It's a laid-back atmosphere with no pretention - just great food. I would avoid bringing younger children, as the dining room is so small and seating is close. Better to go there on date night!

Edited by Jill Cheese Lady
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Took the folks to dinner tonight at A La Lucia (on their dime, of course) and was pleased -- not blown away by revolutionary cuisine, but not turned off by attempts at such, either. The food was on time, delicious, and very reasonably priced (and a downright bargain at lunch). My Salmon with fennel, fresh tomatoes pine nuts and basil had a perfect char on the outside and a nice pink center. Manicotti with ricotta is a nice blend of sweet and savory; the Roasted Pepper appetizer with olives and anchovies lasted a total of thirty seconds on our table before being devoured.

This place is worth checking out for consistently good, unpretentious Italian, and in a month or two its adjacent space will be opening as the only wine bar in Old Town. I hear they're going to have wine pong in the back on Fridays. If only OT had a purveyor of jumbo slices...

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Went for dinner last night with two other couples. Our reservation was at 8:30 and the place was packed. We were a little early and enjoyed some wine in the adjacent "wine bar". I didn't really know what to think of bar space. There was a bar structure.....but a wine steward was coming around to each group individually taking orders. He was lots of fun and extraordinarily helpful. But it didn't seem a typical restaurant bar.

The food isn't cutting edge, but they've got the basics down cold. We had beautifully light fried calamari and salads to start. I had their Linguine with Seafood and it was terrific. A couple of folks had the Cannelloni special and raved about it. After 4 bottles of wine, I'm a little fuzzy on the rest of the details in regards to what others ate. We skipped dessert but look forward to trying it again.

The most expensive entrée on the menu is $23. Appetizers and salads are all under $8. And the atmosphere was much more upscale than a "Pines of Wherever" type joint. I would be very comfortable bringing my 10 year old to dine there anytime (although I saw no children last night). I'd probably consider bringing our 5 year old for lunch. The service was spot on and VERY personable. All in all, it's a nice, hidden addition to the Alexandria dining scene and definitely recommended.

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Friday night, the folks at A la Lucia were kind enough to seat us for a late dinner, even though we arrived 10 minutes or so before their posted closing time of 10pm (we did call ahead to make sure that it wouldn't be a problem). We were in the back room, a nice comfortable (very gold/yellow) space, along with several other tables in various stages of their meals.

The service was very good throughout the meal - attentive and lots of checking by various people to see how we were doing (although not to the point of being annoying). After placing our order, a bruschetta amuse-gueule (there must be an Italian word for this....) arrived; a nice, unexpected touch.

I started with a special - asparagus salad with parmesan and lemon vinaigrette. As it sounds, it was very simple, with a generous portion of nicely blanched asparagus. It was a touch too heavy on the cheese and a bit too light on the dressing for my tastes, but overall it was enjoyable. My companion ordered another of the specials - a sausage plate of rabbit sausage with golden raisins and pine nuts (the latter 2 items were garnish) and a venison sausage. I don't know if they were housemade or not, but both sausages were extremely good.

For mains, we again ordered off the specials list. I chose a pasta special - mafalde (I think- a long ribbon pasta about an inch wide) with spinach, grape tomatoes, and goat cheese. It was very basic, as described, with garlic and olive oil. Not bad, but $14 for a meatless dish did seem a bit on the high side. The other entree ordered was seafood ravioli in a lobster sauce. The sauce was creamy and had a lovely, delicate lobster flavor to it, and the ravioli were not bad, but perhaps seafood filling isn't the best ravioli choice.

We were eyeing the what boisterous and entertaining table of men across from us were eating- they seemed to know what to order. We saw plates of stuffed squash blossoms arrive, followed by linguine with lobster, and an assortment of entrees - lamb stew on polenta, very nice-looking steaks, etc.

I'd like to go back and try some other things, as well as give the wine bar a try. In all, this is a nice neighborhood place, and the food seems to be much better than what was going on at Ecco (RIP). I'm sorry I haven't been sooner and I plan to visit again before too long.

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We stopped by the wine bar for a late bite on Friday evening. After mulling over the regular menu and wondering (and asking) about those small plates that Capitol Icebox had told me were available in the bar, I was presented with the (aha!) BAR menu. It's not a huge list, but there's a decent selection of ~10 items to choose from. Our favorite was definitely the grilled calamari (recommended by Marko the bartender) - simply grilled, fresh, and not the least bit chewy or rubbery. (The fried calamari at a neighboring table also looked quite good, but I felt virtuous for having ordered the healthier grilled version.)

Steak was three tender, thin slices, served atop a pizzaiola that was garlicky and good. Fried artichokes with fondue was pretty much as described - the thin fondue was better after it had some time to thicken up, and I think I prefer artichokes that aren't fried. We tried several other items, salami with goat cheese, a caesar salad (whole anchovies included), and fried mozzarella with another fresh tomatoey sauce for dipping. I enjoyed a nice Barbera by the glass, as well as our after-dinner chat with Michael. He is showing all of the World Cup games (during the week) and will have coffee and croissants for the morning ones - too bad about that pesky work thing that will prevent me from enjoying that...

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A handful of us ended up with a couple tables in the bar area at A La Lucia last week. It was my first visit and I was quite impressed. Not dazzled, but really impressed. It's an attractive place with a fantastic bartender who would ask a few simple questions and could help steer you to exactly the bottle of wine you're in the mood for. In our case, we went through about 6 bottles for the evening, including a few nebbiolo and barbera (don't recall the winemakers). The wines we chose were all in the $24-$30 range and were a super value. This is a really well done list. Lots of varieties, with particular concentration in Italy (notably Piedmont, Tuscany, and Friuli, with kicks to the Veneto and Sicily, too). And there's a wine priced for anyone's budget. This is definitely a destination for wine.

As for food, it was a little inconsistent, which is why I was impressed but not dazzled overall by the restaurant. We ordered grilled squid which came out tender and soft, with a slight charred (pleasant) crispness on the thin spots. All it needed was a splash of lemon juice which came alongside it. We ordered another plate a little later on, however, and it was not as good. Some pieces were undercooked and raw, others perfect. I was partial to the venison sausage, which was grilled, split and sliced into about 8 pieces, IIRC. My favorite was the manicotti however. It looked exactly like you'd expect from any great looking Italian-American restaurant presentation. To rolls of pasta stuffed with cheese and spinach, doused with red sauce and covered with bubbling cheese that was just turning brown. My next visit, I'll be trying more pasta.

We declined dessert. But they came with a complimentary bottle of Moscato for us to close out our meal with. I'm glad I went and I'm looking forward to a return visit.

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We had an early dinner here on a Saturday night a few weeks ago. I had the most amazing goat cheese ravioli, in a light sauce that contained fresh spinach and grape tomatoes. As I remarked at the time, it was one of the most heavenly pasta dishes I've had in a long time. I wasn't blown away by our appetizers - I had a fresh artichoke hearts special that had too many hard pieces in it. Good flavor though. We also had a very ordinary salad to share. I got to steal a bite of the pasta with lobster fra diavolo and it was good. Not fabulous, but good. I would definitely return (especially if I could get that goat cheese ravioli dish).

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My favorite was the manicotti however. It looked exactly like you'd expect from any great looking Italian-American restaurant presentation. To rolls of pasta stuffed with cheese and spinach, doused with red sauce and covered with bubbling cheese that was just turning brown. My next visit, I'll be trying more pasta.
The +1 and I stopped in (again) a few days after I had joined the small group mentioned above. We shared a few of the small plates (grilled calamari and the polenta with meatballs) and split an entree. I almost went for the manicotti, because I thought it was really good - see Crescentfresh's description - but decided to try something new and went for the canelloni. It was good, but not as good as the manicotti. The long tubes of pasta were filled with a blend of finely ground veal, ricotta, and spinach. I didn't find the filling to have a whole lot of flavor and I still had the memory of the very tasty manicotti fresh in my mind. The polenta with meatballs is my new favorite. Cheesy polenta topped with 6-8 small, homemade meatballs in a fresh tomato sauce (shrimp and grits a l'italienne?) - very good, very filling, and perfect for sharing. I've only had good luck with the grilled calamari - so fresh and always perfectly grilled.

I like this little place - specifically the bar-only menu - and am very glad to have it as a neighborhood option.

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We went to A la Lucia last week for dinner after a long hiatus. We had boycotted the place a few months ago after the owner scolded us when we called to say we’d be late for a reservation and then told us to forget about coming. Granted, it was Saturday night for six people, but the circumstances were out of our control. Anyway, we broke down and went again and overall it was a good experience. The manicotti was excellent. The veal special was tender, if not a bit overwhelmed by too much butter. The wine service, as always, was a standout. I don’t know the wine steward’s name, but he’s especially helpful in pointing us toward good selections. The only real downside was the curt, crabby wait staff—an attitude that seems to trickle down from the top.

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The only real downside was the curt, crabby wait staff—an attitude that seems to trickle down from the top.
You know, that's what's so wonderful about this area. There are other places to go and get good Italian food and not be harangued. Fortunately, Italian food is somewhat ubiquituous so it's not difficult to find better, different, tastier, etc with a bit of searching. A three block walk up to St. Asaph and you find Villa d'Este and gosh, they serve Italian food.
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We went to A la Lucia last week for dinner after a long hiatus. We had boycotted the place a few months ago after the owner scolded us when we called to say we’d be late for a reservation and then told us to forget about coming. Granted, it was Saturday night for six people, but the circumstances were out of our control. Anyway, we broke down and went again and overall it was a good experience. The manicotti was excellent. The veal special was tender, if not a bit overwhelmed by too much butter. The wine service, as always, was a standout. I don’t know the wine steward’s name, but he’s especially helpful in pointing us toward good selections. The only real downside was the curt, crabby wait staff—an attitude that seems to trickle down from the top.
I Love a la Lucia Especially the Curt, Crabby Wait Staff and I Love Michael, he has only scolded me maybe 5 times but I love it!!

Wait one cotton' pickin' moment!

Let me get this straight. You had the courtesy to call up and attempt to cancel or officially try to change a reservation...unlike probably a lot of other folks who couldn't give a rat's patootie about showing such courtesy, and you got scolded for doing so? Not, "I'm afraid we can't accomodate your request for a change tonight" or some such thing? :lol:

Forgive me if I'm not buying the "I love you when you do me like that" kinda thing. :)

Damn. I'm so digging that place after my sole visit. But something like that......wow. If that happened to me my first words to the dude would be my last words to the dude. "Bite me, fucker!"

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We just tried to dine at this "little gem" the other night. Sketchy is not the word for the service for this out-of-the-way restaurant. The food is good, but not worth the maitre'd's attitude. My party of 7 had reservations for 8:45 and was told our table would be ready shortly. After 30 minutes and several inquiries, we were finally told that there was only one table at which we'd be seated, and the party at that table was simply not getting up. We asked whether we could be seated at separate tables, but simply told that we would have to wait for the one table. After 45 minutes, we finally left. We sure won't be returning to A La Lucia.

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I find all these comments about "attitude" from the staff at ala lucia remarkable. I've dined there maybe a couple of dozen times and I have never encountered a hint of attitude; the staff and owner have always gone out of their way to treat me like a VIP and trust me, I'm no VIP.

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The only real downside was the curt, crabby wait staff—an attitude that seems to trickle down from the top.
Six of us had dinner here after the Majestic party, and they must have sorted out any service issues, because our server last night -- huge bald Serbian guy whose name escapes me -- was very good and his off-the-menu recommendations were super. Food ranged from excellent to average, at very reasonable prices. I will let others at the table speak to the quality of the wine list, adding only that whatever we were drinking was delicious.
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Dude. This list rocks. Long. And 2 Amys-type pricing. And some American wine (including the brooding, old-school Belle Pente Murto Vyd. pinot noir for a sick, barely-more-than-retail $52.)

2005 Terradora di Paolo Falanghina was $28.

2001 G. Mascarello Nebbiolo d'Alba was $40 (!)

2004 Paitin Barbera d'Alba was $28. It's $14 a glass at Vidalia.

Much of the list comes from totally-awesome Italian importer Vias.

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Dude. This list rocks. Long. And 2 Amys-type pricing. And some American wine (including the brooding, old-school Belle Pente Murto Vyd. pinot noir for a sick, barely-more-than-retail $52.)

Michael keeps his prices down by running a wine shop next door (where he also seats private parties or overflow tables on really busy nights). I usually go for a Barbera and have been very pleased.

There is a large lounge section at the corner that has its own menu of appetizers that are $2-3 less than in the main restaurant (and where the Serbian guy usually waits tables). If you end up here, I strongly recommend the deep-fried sausage, which is housemade, then dipped into a tempura-like batter for frying and topped with a balsamic reduction. You get four pieces of sausage for as many dollars, and they are damn tasty.

Another small dish I like from the regular menu is the fennel with parmesan, which delivers exactly that: braised fennel finished under the broiler with a generous amount of parmesan cheese, for $7. One night they were serving wild boar, another hit, and IIRC it was priced at $16.

I don't see the point in lamenting the state of Bebo when you have A la Lucia around. The prices are on par with Donna's flop, the service (in my experience) has always been wonderful and if anything has only improved, and the food, while perhaps not at the level of sophistication of some dishes at Bebo, is down-to-earth yet refined. I am very grateful to have it in the neighborhood.

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I will let others at the table speak to the quality of the wine list, adding only that whatever we were drinking was delicious.

I realize there's very little to what I'm going to say to help others in determining what to eat, where to sit, what to drink, etc. etc. but to give a simple, to-the-point, mini-review -- Dinner last night at A la Lucia was fucking amazing!

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I was there last night as well and agree with crescentfresh, fucking awsome. I was going to order the fettucini with veal ragu but when my turn to order came, I asked the waiter what he thought I should have. He recommeded a veal scallopini with melted parmesan that was not on the menu but that the kitchen could do, no problem. I took his recomendation and I am glad I did. Jake got the fettucini and complained that it had too much ragu (I'l say that again in case you failed to understand, Jake complained that there was too much meat sauce). The veal with parmesan was melt in your mouth tender with melted parmesan on the top with a nice brown sauce to boot. A very simple preparation that was very much to my liking. It came with come sauteed green beans on the side along with a bowl of spaghetti with your choice of red sauce or olive oil, butter and garlic. I can't believe I live so close to this place but have never tried it, a big mistake on my part.

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I was there last night as well and agree with crescentfresh, fucking awsome.
The veal ragu with fresh fettucini I tried last night was robust, the chef's special veal scallopini just as good as last time I tried it, and the penne puttanesca was also perfectly prepared. The winner for me was the soft shell crab entree: three small softies sauteed and perched on a broccoli rabe and diced tomato base with a light garlic wine sauce, and sprinkled with toasted almond slices. The crabs were each about 3.5", which is the legal minimum for harvesting; fresh, not frozen, and very sweet. At $20, a fine value for these delicatezze granchio blu. We were sitting at a table in the bar area and had attentive service with a genuine smile. Considering we walked in without a reservation on a Saturday evening, they could not have been more accomodating.
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After dinner at Bastille Saturday night six of us walked up to A la Lucia for an after dinner drink. We went into the bar area and there was standing room only with one large empty table. We were just about to leave thinking we could never get a drink when Michael walked in spoke to one person in our party (recognized them from their various dinners at Lucia) and the next thing we knew we were told to be seated even if it was only drinks! We had a great waitress who didn't rush us at all. Michael and his waitress showed a lot of class and has six customers who will return for dinner.

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Four of us were down at the Waterfront Festival in Old Towne on Saturday night and all of us were pretty excited about eating some fair food. I was at Celebrate Fairfax the weekend before and the other three were mesmorized by my tales of corn dogs and funnel cakes. But, a funny thing happened when we were ready to eat at the festival about 9:00 on Saturday night...most stands were out of food! We all could have found something to eat, but it is discouraging when you got to two or three stands and find out that your choices are not available.

So, we gave the proverbial finger to the festival and wandered over to A La Lucia for dinner. But, was that a good choice?

To begin, I really loved the service at the restaurant. We couldn't get a table right away, but the bar was cozy and the bartenders were great. Michael, or at least who I assume was Michael, was really helpful in picking out our wine (I don't remember what it was, but I know that it was a great price for the bottle that we got). We got another great bottle at the table, after we were seated, and that was awesome as well. And, no, I don't know what that was either, I let the guy paying pick it all out.

But, while the service was great, the food was pretty much the exact opposite. I am not saying that it was awful, Olive Garden is awful, but it was simply not very good. The meatballs, served with polenta as an appetizer, were dry. And, when I mean dry, I mean really dry. The fried calamari was a bit better, but pedestrian for what was expected. And, while the olive oil they had on the tables was very tasty, the bread basket was uninspiring. French baquette served at room temperature!? Is it really that hard to heat up bread before you serve it? The entrees that we had on our side of the table, a fettucine with veal ragu (special) and the veal scallopini with prosciutto, fontina and sage, were just bad. The veal was fine, but you know you have some issues when the green beans were the best thing on the plate. The fettucine was cooked OK, but the pasta was way oversauced, and the bread couldn't help out in this case, and the veal in the sauce itself was dry (almost a chalky taste). We skipped dessert, opting for ice cream later on that night.

Overall, it was a tale of two restaurants, great service, below average food. It may have been an off night for the food (hopefully) or the cooks could have just been tired at 10:30 when we started eating (not good if it is the case), but it wasn't worth it, even with the prices being so low.

One more thing...I am not a regular at any restaurant. I figure that there are thousands of places to eat in the metro area, so I am going to try to get to them all. And, when I am in a restaurant that has a lot of regulars, like A La Lucia did, I am often turned off by how they treat these regulars. This was not the case with A La Lucia, let me make that clear, but it is the case with a lot of other places. If they get some free food or some free drinks, that is fine, but I cannot stand it when groups are seated out of turn because they are regulars. Christopher, I don't think that was the case with you the other night, but if it was, it really does stink for the rest of us. Not that I wouldn't take advantage of it, but it really sucks for others waiting when that stuff happens, and I see it happen a hell of a lot.

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I think the tables in the bar area are not considered regular dinner tables. I've walked in without a reservation and been offered the option of sitting in the bar at one of those tables (if available) or waiting for a regular table to come open. I've seen just one person sitting at the large table in the bar (seats at least 5-6), so I think the bar area is first-come, first-served for the most part. (I could be wrong, but that has been my experience) I'm sorry to hear that your food experience wasn't good. I've got reservations there for tomorrow with friends. Our food experiences have been very good there. I particularly like their veal scallopini dishes.

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One more thing...I am not a regular at any restaurant. I figure that there are thousands of places to eat in the metro area, so I am going to try to get to them all. And, when I am in a restaurant that has a lot of regulars, like A La Lucia did, I am often turned off by how they treat these regulars. This was not the case with A La Lucia, let me make that clear, but it is the case with a lot of other places. If they get some free food or some free drinks, that is fine, but I cannot stand it when groups are seated out of turn because they are regulars. Christopher, I don't think that was the case with you the other night, but if it was, it really does stink for the rest of us. Not that I wouldn't take advantage of it, but it really sucks for others waiting when that stuff happens, and I see it happen a hell of a lot.
I agree, it wasn't the case with us. Many customers were standing and the bar was full, as were all other lounge tables. No one seemed to want the table besides us but we hestiated to use because we were not dining.
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The back room at A la Lucia is one of the most underrated rooms in Alexandria, a lovely place to dine, and often frequented by locals during the week.

Wines by the glass here are good, and generally in the single digits. There are at least a few interesting white and red offerings that fall comfortably within the "let's not go crazy" Tuesday-night neighborhood-restaurant category.

Diners tonight were welcomed immediately with an amuse-gueule of crostini topped with white beans, olive oil, and some diced red pepper. Nothing more than a fifty-cent gesture that goes a long way in fostering goodwill, but why not repay the goodwill by ordering a glass of Prosecco to sip?

Antipasti Vegetables ($7.95) was a wonderful plate of grilled eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and a quartered Portobello, all benefitting from the salted-olive-oil dunk with the typically flavorless, mie-driven basket of bread.

The best appetizer was the Fennel with Melted Parmesan ($6.95), three rounds of fennel on a plate, each seemingly oven-baked and topped with browned, melted parmesan. With the antipasti, it was an irresistible combination.

Homemade Manicotti ($15.95) with spinach and ricotta, served with a load of mozzarella and tomato sauce, was a good dish, a homey dish, a likeable dish, and a dish that I might order again. But it wasn't particularly great, the whole thing being a bit ramekin-gloppy and neighborhood-ish, although that's perfectly fine here.

The wines and the lovely dining room keep this strongly within the "great neighborhood restaurant" classification.

I can't remember the exact prices of the desserts, but the ice creams are sourced from Moorenko in McLean, and an amazingly priced Taylor 20-Year Port ($10.50?) appeared diluted, thin, and very light in color. Nevertheless, I simply poured the entire glass over my vanilla ice cream ($8?), and in the process, turned an ordinary, inexpensive dessert into an extraordinary, expensive one. The things we do for love ...

Cheers,

Rocks.

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One more thing...I am not a regular at any restaurant. I figure that there are thousands of places to eat in the metro area, so I am going to try to get to them all. And, when I am in a restaurant that has a lot of regulars, like A La Lucia did, I am often turned off by how they treat these regulars. This was not the case with A La Lucia, let me make that clear, but it is the case with a lot of other places. If they get some free food or some free drinks, that is fine, but I cannot stand it when groups are seated out of turn because they are regulars. Christopher, I don't think that was the case with you the other night, but if it was, it really does stink for the rest of us. Not that I wouldn't take advantage of it, but it really sucks for others waiting when that stuff happens, and I see it happen a hell of a lot.

I felt that the food was fine, slightly above standard Southern Italian food with excellent pasta. When I was there two Sundays ago for the first time, I noted the interaction between obviously regular customers and waitstaff. It reminded me of the neighborhood Italian restaurants in the Brooklyn of my childhood where people shook hands with the waiters and owners both when entering and when leaving. And that is very pleasant.

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Jlock and I stopped by about a month ago for an early dinner at the bar, and the whole experience made us wonder why we ever moved from Alexandria. The food was excellent, and the service was phenomenal. Just about every time we go out now, he suggests a return visit to A La Lucia - forgetting that we actually don't live that close.

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Did you know....that A la Lucia is the latest place to join the Washington area 'pizza party'? A new brick oven was installed last weekend and they're serving up Neopolitan-style pies at lunch and for carryout until 4pm. From what I understand they will (or may already) be available in the bar during dinner hours.

Yesterday I tried the salsiccia italiano - Italian sausage and broccoli rabe on marinara sauce topped with mozzarella. I'm not a pizza connoisseur like some folks around here, but I thought it was a very good pie. The dough/crust had a nice 'chew' - the thin crust wasn't super-crispy on the bottom, nor was it undercooked. The sausage had a little bit of kick and the sauce was fresh tasting and lightly applied. I'm looking forward to trying some of the other variations. At between $8.50 (margarita) and $13 (quattro stagioni) for a ~12-inch, it's a tasty deal! (and it reheated nicely today)

We also recently enjoyed a pasta special of linguini with scallops and shrimp in a very light white wine and garlic sauce.

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If you like Frank Sinatra singing "Chicago," head straight to a la Lucia, where it repeated endlessly throughout an entire hour-long meal - the same song, over and over and over again, played at a moderate-to-high volume.

Cheers,

Rocks.

I can't imagine a worse fate, as bad as being subjected to "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Feliz Navidad" over and over, or being a "Prisoner of Pachelbel." That you are still able to sign off with a "Cheers" is testament to your strength of character.

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Pizza for carryout is now available all day long, according to the impromptu sign in the window. My guess is that it might even be better in the evening; our lunch pizzas today were tasty, but browned and bordering on overcooked on the top, while the crust bottom was still well short of the blister stage. Oven floor not hot enough?

Also, the margherita isn't pre-topped with basil. Instead, they perch a smallish sprig of nice fresh basil on top, as if it were a garnish. Luckily, they'll happily bring you a bigger piece upon request.

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Last night we walked down to the Taste of Old Town North, but it looked pretty much wrapped up by the time we got there. We headed over to A La Lucia and sat in the bar. I actually prefer the bar there for a less formal experience. The bartended took great care of us. My husband was thrilled to see fresh soft shells on the menu, made the way he loves them - sauted (not breaded and fried) with a spicy white wine sauce (never cream sauces for him). He raved about them, to the point that he recommended them to the ladies at the next table. I had the veal canneloni (light on the cheese for me), which was tasty and very rich. I think this meal put A La Lucia back on our rotation, especially now that my husband knows he can get me to walk there from about the King Street Metro. (We did cheat a bit and take the new trolley for a few blocks on the way down in order to save some time). Stopped at Vermillion for a refreshing drink on the way back. He was thrilled to find Guinness on tap and I was happy that it was served in a non-smoking location.

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Had dinner at A La Lucia last week. We were given slices of their Neopolitan pizza as a gift from the kitchen. AMAZING :lol: . Thin crust, nice red sauce and fresh mozzarella. I asked when it was available and was told that the pizza is on the lunch and bar menu. I see a trip to the bar for a pie in the near future.

For mains, we enjoyed

Veal "Margherita"-thin tender pan fried veal, topped with sliced field tomatoes and melted mozzarella, in a sage wine sauce. Perfectly cooked rabe, seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes was also delicious in the sauce.

Spaghetti with meat sauce-huge, meaty, nicely seasoned. A great 'basic' Italian dish that was done with care.

Manicotti with cheese and spinach-homemade, large in a basic red sauce.

The Caesar salad was a standout with whole crisp Romain leaves, a hard boiled egg that I think was fried (it was crisp on the outside) and halved, two anchovies and a dressing with assertive garlic and anchovies, topped with shredded parm.

Service was very nice.

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I can't say enough good things about last night's dinner.

Wild boar prosciutto and speck. Mmmm.

For mains, I had the house-made ravioli with sage and butter. The whole branzino across the table from me was excellent, and the linguini with clams next to me was out of this world - it was difficult not to sneak another taste of that one. The grilled salmon was delightful even plain (it had been ordered with all sauces on the side).

I was there a few months ago and thought to myself that it should be in the regular rotation. Last night I was reminded of that very thought.

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A La Lucia has a 3-course menu for $29.95-and it's plentiful with lots of options-some with surcharges. Recently for dinner, I started with the Caesar salad which had fresh, crisp Romaine, anchovies, a delicious dressing (and the right amount-obviously just dressed) and parm. For my main, whole branzino ($5 upcharge) which was deftly boned after presentation. The branzino came with shaved fennel, which was like buttery fettucini. For dessert, 2 small cannolis and strawberries.

Mr. MV started with a frito misto which included calamari, shrimp and green beans in a non-greasy tempura-like batter. His main was veal with fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella (white wine sauce, I think), and broccoli rabe. He got chocolate mousse for dessert.

This is a fantastic deal, and I'm happy to say that the place was really filling up as we dined.

I hope to get back to their bar/lounge soon for pizza.

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My colleague recommended this restaurant to me 2 years ago and I finally got around to trying it out. Boy, I wished I had visited it as soon as she had told me about it because it was delicious. It was also reasonably priced and the portions were large. I had the 3-course dinner special: fritto misto (calamari, shrimp, green beans), seafood ravioli, and chocolate profiteroles. My husband had the endive salad and spaghetti with meat sauce. The fritto misto was huge, a meal in itself and very tasty. I think it also had zucchini. My ravioli was delicious too although the sauce was a bit too sweet. I would have preferred a simple cream or tomato sauce. The spaghetti with meat sauce was good and hearty. The endive salad was good but could have used some fruit and nut to make it more interesting. Nonetheless, great place and will be added to our regular rotation. I look forward to exploring the rest of the menu. The table next to me had veal canneloni. That looked mouth-watering. Another table had the mussels appetizer. It was a huge bowl of mussels and the diner told me they were really good. Wine list looked good and reasonably priced too.

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A la Lucia has quite a deal, 3 courses for $30 which includes a good portion of the menu, with only a few surcharges.

The braised artichokes were the biggest disappointment of the evening, they needed to remove at least another two layers of leaves, and also cook them a little longer, but I am not sure if that would have saved this dish, it the portions that were cooked properly tasted primarily of olive brine. This dish looked even worse compared to one of the best frito mistos I have had outside of Italy, the ingredients were top notch, and fried perfectly (the shrimp and zucchini were the stars of the plate).

We both ordered veal for our entrees, but with different preparations. My wife’s Veal Scallopini topped with prosciutto and fontina was quite well prepared, and was delightfully warming with the veal acting simply as a delivery vehicle for the savoriness of the cheese and ham. The only issue I can take with my veal chop was that the mushroom sauce was less of a sauce and more like sautéed mushrooms – nothing against this type of preparation, but I think that the veal would have benefited from a slightly thicker sauce.

The pistachio gelato was paired with a piece of apple and cinnamon biscotti that really did not match well – luckily there was far more of the wonderful gelato than cookie. While drier than I prefer, the ricotta cheesecake had a nice lemony flavor to it, I do believe that this dish would have been improved with a little more fruit sauce and/or dollop of whipped cream, but what isn’t improved with a little whipped cream?

The wine list is not extensive, but what they offer is decent and at very fair prices. We settled on a delicious Montalcino that was a steal at $40 a bottle.

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Dined here tonight with a friend. The 3-course meal price has inched up to $31.95, about 10 offerings each on the apps and entrees. Several house-made pastas in the selections. Tonight I wasn't in a pasta mood and ordered off the regular menu, a bean soup to start and meatballs on polenta as my main (which was actually on the appetizer menu, but it was plenty of food especially following the soup. Had a glass of red, a Barbera, I think -- recommended by the waiter -- $8/glass and paired well with my dinner.

The soup was visually uninteresting, a consistent orange-y red broth with big white beans just beneath the surface, and it had a good general flavor but didn't sing. It could have used a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs stirred in just before serving to keep the flavor bright. The polenta was wonderfully smooth and silky, the meatballs tender and moist, and the ragu in the correct amount. However, the flavors overall were a little flat. Once again, a little more herb or black pepper or something was needed to wake up the dish. So close, so so close, but not quite on point. Dessert for me was the pistachio gelato and it was fabulous. Served with a couple of small almond-cinnamon biscotti that weren't a very good match flavor-wise for the gelato but very tasty on their own. My friend got mushroom ravioli in a white wine butter sauce, and chocolate mousse and liked them both, but I didn't sample either dish.

Service was good, with all the wait staff taking care of everyone, so I think we had 4 different servers at our table over the course of the evening.

Overall, I wished there was a little more brightness to the flavors in the dishes I chose, but I also feel that I probably didn't order particularly well tonight. It's close to the office and I'm sure I'll be back. There's a lot to like, and next time I'll go with one of the house-made pastas.

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Overall, I wished there was a little more brightness to the flavors in the dishes I chose, but I also feel that I probably didn't order particularly well tonight. It's close to the office and I'm sure I'll be back. There's a lot to like, and next time I'll go with one of the house-made pastas.

I'm a big fan. If you go again, I recommend the mussels appetizer, the fritto misto (calamari, shrimp, veggies all fried up), chicken parmesan, pasta (I think black ink) with seafood. If they have the lemon ricotta cheesecake, that is delicious too.

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A la Lucia continues to be a reliable local favorite. A few nights ago, I enjoyed a lovely dinner al fresco, while catching up with an old friend. I kept things light with the endive salad and a half order of the rigatoni with sausage. The endive, fresh and crunchy, was topped a bit of gorgonzola, walnuts, and a light vinaigrette dressing - I tend to agree with the comment above that a bit more fruit would liven it up a bit. The rigatoni is a great, simple dish - a little bit of heat coming from the sauce and the generous chunks of Italian sausage.

My friend opted for the $31.95 3-course menu mentioned above. He ordered the seafood linguini and was very happy with it. Having had it before, I know why - it's full of shrimp, scallops, and clams, has a lovely light sauce, and is served with house-made black linguini. I got to share the chocolate cake that he chose for his dessert - it was delicious - moist cake, fluffy icing. The waiter said it was made in-house - if that's true (and I have no reason to think it's not) they've got a darn good baker! We were also able to take advantage of the 25% off wine deal that's available on Sun/Mon/Tues and enjoyed a Masi Campofiorin from Veneto.

A nice spot for a quiet, outdoor meal, with an OK view of the park across the street and the river down the road.

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For those who may be missing Roberto Donna's cooking:

A la Lucia is going to be hosting a Piedmont Style Dinner and Wine Pairing with Guest Chef Roberto Donna, Wednesday November 16. Apparently, it's the first of a series that will take place over the winter. See the restaurant's Facebook page for more details - menu is forthcoming.

A la Lucia is one of our regular dinner spots, and I'm still enjoying my old favorites: the rigatoni with sausage and peppers, meatballs and polenta, and that chocolate cake (when it's available). Pizzas, cannelloni, and most other pasta dishes are also very good.

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