Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism
Despite its location in the heart of Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood, Lucchesi’s Ravioli and Pasta Co. and Cafe may not even come to mind when you’re considering a nice restaurant for the evening.
Perhaps that’s because its main entrance is on the north side of the old Heights movie theater building, instead of facing Kavanaugh Boulevard. Or maybe people still think of Lucchesi’s as a gourmet grocery and take-out place.
Whatever the reason, it’s a shame, because Lucchesi’s offers fine Italian cuisine, a solid wine list and a casually elegant setting for both indoor and outdoor dining.
We ended up there almost by accident a few weeks ago. Helping a friend move into her new house nearby, we wanted to pick up a quick meal and thought of Lucchesi’s. It wasn’t until after we placed the to-go order that we noticed the interior had completely changed since the last time we dropped by, which must have been a long time ago.
What used to be a market was now half market, half fancy restaurant. The restaurant side was quite creatively done, made to look like an outdoor Italian piazza, with a balcony built into the wall on one side. The menu looked great, too, so we decided to come back later to check it out.
The take-out we got that night was very good, by the way. Sticking with pasta, we ordered the spinach and gorgonzola ravioli ($9) and the sauteed shrimp tossed in angel hair ($13). Both were subtle and delicate, with the shrimp pasta benefiting from roasted tomatoes and wild mushrooms. The ravioli portion was not very generous, but the gorgonzola sauce ensured it was satisfying.
A few weeks later we returned on a beautiful night, so we decided to eat on Lucchesi’s outdoor patio. It faces the back parking lot, but you hardly notice, thanks to screening and a lack of traffic. The dinner menu is classic Italian, with appetizers like bruschetta ($7) and toasted ravioli ($6), and entrees like chicken or veal parmigiana ($16 or $18).
We shared a mozzarella caprese to start ($7), the classic Italian salad of sliced tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella cheese. If one of those elements is off, the whole thing is a failure, but Lucchesi’s pulled off the trifecta.
Moving on to the main course, we sampled two staples of Italian cuisine, the veal marsala ($18) and the chicken piccata ($18). The veal was tender and flavorful, and the piece was generous. In fact, combined with the side of polenta, it was difficult to finish everything. Similarly, the chicken perfectly carried the signature hints of lemon juice and capers, and it fit perfectly with the angel hair pasta that shared the plate.
Accompanied by a bottle of Ca’Montini pinot grigio ($28, or $7 per glass), the meal was well-rounded and as good as any in Little Rock. When it comes to wine, Lucchesi’s offers nine whites (including prosecco, reisling and fume blanc) and 10 reds that are similarly diverse.
A full range of sandwiches and salads are available for lunch, like a grilled Tuscan chicken sandwich with mozzarella and pesto aioli ($7.99) and an Italian tuna salad ($7.99) that features tuna, artichoke hearts, capers and red onion. The daily soup special ($4 cup, $5 bowl) is always changing, but if you’re lucky this summer, you should order the gazpacho, which is packed with chopped vegetables and tastes particularly cool and fresh.
As always, you can order anything to take away at Lucchesi’s, but it’s worth sticking around for dinner. The food is warmer, the wine is cooler, and you might just forget what you were rushing back for in the first place.
Lucchesi’s Ravioli and Pasta Co. and Cafe
5600 Kavanaugh Blvd.
Lucchesi’s has a full dinner menu of classic Italian dishes and a solid wine list. Everything is available for take-away, but comfortable indoor and outdoor dining areas are available on premises.
Lunch served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Dinner served 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Moderate to expensive. Credit cards accepted. Full bar.