The no-nonsense Italian restaurant in a Buckman corner store gives the appearance of simplicity. There's a black-and-white-checked floor, no tablecloths and built-in bookshelves appointed with wine, pasta and tomato cans. The water is served from the tap at room temperature.
The homemade pastas are light, perfectly al dente and flavor-packed, putting them in a class by themselves in Portland. You can order or skip the antipastos; they're affordable at $2 a pop but are the least interesting options on the menu. If the wait staff was sometimes harried at peak hours, they had the most important tasks down: solid recommendations and quick delivery of piping-hot pasta, including Luce's spare take on tagliatelle with beef and pork ragu ($10 half, $20 full portion). The restaurant also boasts fish worth sampling, including the seabass with garlic and olives ($16) that was perfectly tender and not overspiced for a mild fish.
Eat: The garganelli with lamb, fennel seed and saffron ($12 half order, $24 full) with a side of decadently creamy leeks ($6).
Drink: The red or white house wine ($7 a glass) goes down easy.
Most popular dish: Baked stuffed trout ($16).
Noise level: 65/100
Expected wait: Long on the weekends. Reservations are accepted for parties of eight or more.
Who you'll eat with: 20- and 30-somethings with dark-rimmed glasses and skinny jeans.
Year opened: 2011