It can be difficult to wrestle a houseguest’s desire to spend a Saturday evening out on the town in Manhattan, but with the proper powers of persuasion, I justified our stay in the country. Reason 1, to try the Italian restaurant, Luce, in Somers, knowing that the 20 minute drive north would be quite spectacular on the eve of the vernal equimox.
The reservoirs that dot the landscape are stunning and the ever popular Muscoot Farm, a Westchester County Park on the approach to Luce is always a welcomed sight. A second reason- after viewing the dinner menu online, I spotted, be still my heart, Spaghetti Carbonara ‘made the traditional way’. This dish and I have a long history going back a few decades when I first discovered it on the menu of a cramped restaurant in Sienna, Italy, paired with a barolo wine- it was an instant love connection to which my loyalty will never cease and an easy dish to emulate providing you adhere to the proper ingredients.
We were running 10 minutes late but upon arriving (with a reservation) we were asked to wait at the bar until our table was ready in about, say, 5 minutes, which turned into 25 minutes with a view of the flat screen TV airing the NCAA Wake Forest- Kentucky Basketball game.
Normally, most restaurants running behind schedule would offer up a comp cocktail, but alas, this was not the case. Perusing the seating areas, I spotted the main dining room, bustling and well appointed with a centrally located stone fireplace and immediately felt that all would be well in the end. The hostess approached me and said that it was closed for a private party and that we would be seated in the room by the bar. Now I would like to make a shout-out to all restaurateurs that if your main and most beautiful dining area is otherwise engaged for a private function, please let your prospective customers know in advance of making the reservation. Large private parties are sometimes noisy and take up quality service time and wait staff and I would gladly have delayed my dinner by one night for the chance to get the full experience. You know what they say about first impressions.
We are seated and the specials are recited by a very amiable waiter. The wine list is formidable and worthy of a sommelier considering the prices and many unknown labels. On arrival, I noticed a sign stating that Luce was a recipient of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Award of Excellence. We asked our waiter about a particular red and he shrugged his shoulder and said, ‘Yeah, it’s ok’. He was right. My dinner companion and I both ordered the special beet salad with gorgonzola cheese, always a nice combination. The dish was an enormous portion and thankfully, I never met a beet I didn’t want to eat so it did not disappoint. However, the presentation was visually overwhelming as it was served on an oversized red cabbage leaf and the gorgonzola had marinated in the beet juice prior to being served creating a monochromatic splash of day-glo magenta. It was actually delicious. Next came the main courses. My guest had Linguine Putanesca and I had Spaghetti Carbonara.
My pasta dish was not traditional as billed. A proper carbonara, and its many variations, should at least contain parmesan cheese, whole eggs cooked into the hot pasta, guanciale, pancetta, or bacon and black pepper. I have had other variations containing fresh seasonal peas, adding a delicious texture and flavor to the experience. This dish in front of me had cream (I was told this by the waiter), no pepper and small bits of proscuitto which I spent some considerable time fishing for at the bottom of the mound. We ate what we could of our very generous portions. Both dishes could have benefited with less spaghetti and a bit more attention to the ingredients. With no room for dessert we were given our bill and sent on our way by our friendly waiter while Kentucky pummeled Wake Forest 90-60.