I heard last week that Lucca Restaurant and Bar had created a new "Vegan Options" menu, so my husband and I had dinner there Saturday night to give me a chance to check it out. When I looked at the menu and realized what they had done, I thought it was such a great idea that I don't know why more restaurants don't do the same thing.
What the kitchen staff at Lucca's had apparently done was to simply look at their existing menu to see what could be made vegan by removing certain ingredients. They didn't create any new dishes -- they just adapted some of their regular dishes and made them vegan.
For example, I ordered the Patchwork Salad to start (although it was a big salad and could practically have been a meal on its own). Both the regular and the vegan versions consist of romaine, radicchio, dried cherries, apple, sweet peppers, and toasted pistachios, tossed with a golden balsamic vinaigrette. The only difference between the regular and vegan Patchwork Salads is that the regular version also includes Northern Gold cheese.
For my main course, I ordered the Spicy Penne, a penne pasta dish that includes baby artichokes, olives, capers, roasted tomato, garlic, and chili flakes. The same ingredients are in the regular version, but it also includes seasoned bread crumbs. In the past, I've ordered the regular version and just asked that the bread crumbs be omitted, but I think it's a stroke of genius that the staff at Lucca's decided to make things easy on their vegan clientele, not to mention their servers, by just creating a separate listing of vegan options to take the guesswork out of ordering.
Since their vegan menu hasn't been posted on their website, I scribbled the items into my notebook while I was waiting for the server to take our order. Here are the items on Lucca's new "Vegan Options" menu:
• Frites -- parsley, sea salt, spicy harissa sauce
• Lucca House Chop Salad -- romaine, radicchio, lemon oregano vinaigrette
• Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad -- mizuna, watercress, toasted pistachios, coriander citronette
• Patchwork Salad -- romaine, radicchio, dried cherries, apple, sweet peppers, toasted pistachios, golden balsamic vinaigrette
• Sautéed Spinach with garlic and grilled lemon
• Sautéed Broccolini with fresh chili and garlic
• Grilled Asparagus with fresh lemon
• Spicy Penne -- baby artichokes, olives, capers, roasted tomato, garlic, chili flakes
• Stuffed Sweet Peppers -- brown rice, canario beans, zucchini, spinach, basil marinara
• Pasta Marinara -- choice of spaghetti, linguini, fettucini, or penne pasta with sweet basil marinara
What a treat to have so many vegan options to choose from at a non-vegan restaurant! You'll need to ask for the vegan menu, though, as it is not part of the regular menu.
Lucca Restaurant and Bar is located at 1615 J Street. Their phone number is 916-669-5300, and their website address is http://www.luccarestaurant.com/. They are open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from noon to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.