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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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Where is it located?

Also, while I have not tried it, I hear that Villa D'Este in North Old Town is good and that it has some of the same investors as R. Eve (for whatever that is worth).

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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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Fun joint. Well-executed pastas and prices that make you think they're not all that confident of them. Casual, almost cafe-esque during the day.

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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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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!!

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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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