Restaurant Guide 2013: Luce

2140 E Burnside St., 236-7195,

[MADE PAN] How could one sweet little Italian restaurant cause so much debate? The shape and décor of Luce's checkerboard-floored storefront more closely resemble the kitchen area of a well-appointed West Hills home than a commercial eatery. The restaurant's inexpensive Italian fare, too, is simple in a way that can either read as charming or ditzy. So reviewers at The Oregonian and Mercury shrugged Luce off before Bon Appétit magazine named it among the 10 best new restaurants in the country in 2012. The locals then re-reviewed the restaurant, deeming it "the triumph of heart over head" that was "hidden in plain sight." The lovely Luce remains quietly self-assured and totally unchanged: They treat the trickle of tourists just like neighborhood folk, they politely ask a couple to swap tables to fit a large group, they host their website on blogspot and they make comfortingly simple fare you could make at home with a little practice. Start by asking for one of everything on the antipasti board, $2 bites ranging from lightly pickled carrots to crostini with chicken-liver mousse. Get a whole baked, stuffed trout ($13) or hanger steak with a slight dusting of rosemary and garlic, plus a bowl of toothsome housemade pasta ($7-$20) to share. You'll leave contented, and with no idea why everyone was so fussed.

Ideal meal: Focaccia with onions ($3), every antipasti ($2 each) and corzetti ($18).

Best deal: The antipasti ($2).

Pro tip: If Luce is crowded, just come back another time; this is a place to relax.

11 am-10 pm daily.


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