Quality, freshness rule at Café Lucci
Pappardelle con sugo d’anitra features thin-ribbon pasta mixed with a braised duck ragout ($17). | Lee A. Litas~Sun-Times Media
609 Milwaukee Avenue, Glenview
Lunch: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Dinner: 4-10 p.m. Monday -Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 3-10 p.m. Sunday. No corkage Mondays.
Updated: December 5, 2012 9:34AM
“It was a big leap of faith,” said chef/owner Augie Arifi of the decision to open Café Lucci with his family 17 years ago. To succeed, creative financing had to include leveraging home and auto titles by all Arifi family members.
“So if this place didn’t work out, not only did we not have a house to go to we had no car to get there in,” laughed Arifi.
He needn’t have worried. Over the course of two decades, Lucci has become a staple for Glenview and its suburban neighbors.
“Our customers are more like family,” said Arifi, estimating that more than 75 percent of their business consists of regulars.
The loyalty is not reserved just for the clientele but also the staff, said co-owner and wine director Bobby Arifi. No one who works at Café Lucci has been there less than 10 years.
“It’s a certain mix, a certain blend of personalities (that create that) certain atmosphere and level of comfort which you just can’t duplicate,” said Arifi.
Prices at Lucci range from $12-$46, making it an affordable neighborhood spot.
But Bobby’s passion for wine has distinguished Lucci, earning it two Wine Spectator ‘Best of’ awards of excellence. With a license to also sell wine retail, it’s not surprising that Lucci’s liquor sales are almost 90 percent wine-driven.
Keeping one eye always on community, the brothers came up with a “40 wines for $40” when the economy took a downturn. “It gives people an option at night to have a bottle of wine and not spend an enormous amount of money,” said Arifi.
Connoisseurs have a choice of bottles ranging from $28-$1600, or wines-by-the-glass priced $8-$28.
Chef Augie has a similar, no-nonsense approach to food preparation.
“There is this big theory of different layers and textures and colors, this, that and the other. We’re not too big on that. We use very few, high-quality ingredients sourced from the best possible purveyors and vendors, and just try and let the flavors of those ingredients come out rather than try to mask them,” said Augie.
The light and tangy Insalata di Pesce is a classic southern Italian dish that illustrates his point. Made with domestic calamari, Spanish octopus, jumbo prawns and conch (in season), it’s tossed in extra virgin olive oil, zesty lemon and garlic and served over mesclun ($12).
You’ll only find fish as a daily special on Lucci’s menu “because we use whatever fish is freshest that day,” said Augie. Deliveries come six days per week and can include specials like the grilled Chilean Sea Bass topped with a roasted red pepper balsamic and robust basil leaves ($36). Just basic and fresh.
“When you have high quality ingredients, don’t get in their way,” is Augie’s motto.
And in 10 years? “This place will just be this place. It’s not going anywhere. It would be impossible to duplicate,” said Bobby.
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