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.
Opened by Giovanna Parolari and John Taboada not far from their flagship Navarre in 2011, Luce has earned notice from the likes of Bon Appétit by passing off impossibly good food as simple. It's like the valedictorian who secretly studies her ass off, making it all look effortless.
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
Soup Houses | Seafood Spots | Italian Spots | Best Pizza Pies | Southern Food | Best Steaks, Chops And Charcuterie |Mexican Places | Sushi Spots | Korean Food | Chinese Food | Mediterranean Restaurants | Where to Get Coffee Cocktails After Your Meal