Coming from an out-of-towner, I wouldnt expect anyone to pay heed to my advice. If you fail to Run, Dont Walk to Ristorante Luci, it will be your loss. Last weekend, my brother and his lovely significant other treated me to what I will describe as my most exhilarating food experience. Located at 470 Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul, it is an intimate locale and breathes romance for the lucky diners. With fourteen tables tucked into a modest space, one can readily hear the satisfied murmur of those sampling the various appetizers and entrees. Family owned and staffed by both family and other friendly competent staff, the atmosphere embraces you with a feeling of true concern about the likes and dislikes of the diner.
We were lucky enough to be seated and pampered with a number of culinary delights by the most charming and equally becoming proprietor, Maria Gans. She was assisted by the intriguing waitress, Ann, who reported having no sense of humor but countered that with a lovely smile and witty discourse throughout evening. Maria carefully explained each dish to us and brought appropriate wines with each course. I cannot pick a favorite among the wide variety of dishes we sampled to include baked polenta topped with shredded braised duck, tender sweet crab and scallops simmered in a rich broth and topped with gremolata, or the silky homemade ravioli stuffed with butternut squash. Equally pleasing to the taste buds were the earthy and intensely rich flavored papardelle with braised shitake mushrooms, seared fresh sea scallops piped with truffled zabaglione that filled my palate with a tart, yet briny and sweet burst of flavor, and grilled lamb that was sweeter than one could imagine.
At the end of the myriad of courses, I was at a loss for words to explain what a passionate experience the previous hours of five star service and cuisine had been. After I expressed my passion for cooking, we were led to the kitchen area for a tour where we observed Maries talented and able bodied brother Steven orchestrating the processes behind the scenes. It became obvious that a mix of love and skill led to the creation and delivery of these fine dishes. Thanks to the efforts of Marie, her family, and adept staff, it will last long in my memory of one of the finest dining experiences of my life.