Elkhart Dining Days 2014: Lucchese's Italian Restaurant is a perfect place to treat yourself

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By: Emily Pfund and Krystal Vivian
epfund@flavor574.com, kvivian@flavor574.com

Sometimes, you just have to “treat yo self.”

Elkhart Dining Days provided the perfect excuse for us to have a girls’ night out without feeling too guilty about how much we were spending.

Lucchese’s Italian Restaurant is offering a three-course meal for $30, and if you play your cards right (ahem, follow our lead) you can enjoy a smorgasbord of heavenly eats and still have enough for lunch the next day.

The meal starts off with your choice of soup (including the lasagna soup, which needs to be famous if it isn’t already) or a salad. Then you can choose either an appetizer (a sausage fondutta dip, beach bread or crab cakes) or a dessert (a brownie with cinnamon gelato or a lemon bar with strawberry gelato).

Because we wanted to be truly extravagant, we decided that one of us would get an appetizer and the other would get a dessert and we’d share both.

What a great decision.

More on that later, though.

We decided to start off with girly martinis because this was girls’ night and, as they saying goes, you’ve got to “treat yo self.”

After a lengthy debate (it seriously lasted 10 minutes) between the three different lemon-flavored martinis, Krystal finally settled Lemon Drop, hoping it would complement the shrimp scampi she planned on ordering.

Emily ordered the Pomatini, only to be told by the waiter that the bar was out of one of the 73,459 ingredients needed for the concoction. He suggested a grapefruit-flavored substitute, which Emily decided was still sufficiently girly.

As soon as we had our drinks, the soups arrived.

SOUP

Emily ordered a lasagna soup, a chili-like mix of Italian sausage, tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and tiny shell pasta. Basically like a really tasty lasagna with no chewing required.

Krystal ordered the chicken pastine soup. “This is what home tastes like,” she said immediately after the first bite. It was full of large chunks of chicken mixed with small noodles, carrots and celery. It was perfectly savory and only needed a little pepper.

APPETIZER

We were only a few bites into the soup when our appetizer arrived: crab cakes with a Sriracha aioli.

By the time we finished the soup, our entrees arrived, which was a bit disappointing because that meant we couldn’t enjoy them piping hot. This is really our only complaint about the entire experience, though.

At this point, we started becoming a little concerned that perhaps we were ordering too much food. But we couldn’t go back now. We’d already ordered it all! It was all on the table. But we must go on — if only to one day tell the tale to Flavor 574 readers.

Upon taking our first bites of the generously large crab cakes, our eyes lit up.

Oh. My. Gawwwwwd.

The cakes were crunchy and crispy on the outside, but inside they were delightfully mild, tender and full of delicious crab. They were exactly how you hope crab cakes are when you order them.

Krystal kept repeating the word “luscious” over and over in between bites. Emily just kept eating (and maybe shaking her head at Krystal’s enthusiasm).

DINNER

The only way Krystal could describe her shrimp scampi is with the following moment-by-moment replay.

Krystal: “Oh my god, this shrimp scampi is everything I’ve ever dreamed about. The shrimp is SO GOOD. SO TENDER. Oh, let me take a sip of my martini. Yup, it goes perfectly with the lemon garlic sauce on these noodles. Great job, past Krystal. Oh my god. I never want to stop eating this. But wait! We have dessert! BUT IT’S SO GOOD, I DON’T WANT TO STOP. OK, fine, I’ll eat the rest for lunch tomorrow. White flag. I surrender.”

The shrimp scampi came with five large perfectly-cooked shrimp laying on a bed of house-made capellini pasta bathed in a lemon-garlic sauce. For those of you who may be wondering what capellini is, don’t worry — Krystal had to ask too. It’s the correct word for angel hair pasta. And it is incredible.

Emily: I don’t think I can give you a moment-by-moment account of my experience with the Chicken Lucchese ala Vodka Sauce. I just forgot what words were. The vodka sauce was the best I’ve ever had, with the perfect amount of garlic and a little bit of spice. The parmesan chicken on top to the bed of linguine was perfectly done. Unfortunately, there was very little room left in my stomach for pasta after the bread, soup and crab cakes. I had five or six bites before I had to give up. It was still delicious the next day when I reheated it at work, which is not always the case with day-old pasta dishes.

DESSERT

We thought there was no way we could eat another bite.

We took a breather while the waiter boxed up the rest of our entrees. We waited about 10 minutes between dinner and dessert, but we still weren’t prepared when dessert arrived.

We ordered the brownie with cinnamon gelato. It. Was. Massive.

The soft, chewy and dense brownie was served warm. It had a milder chocolate flavor than most other brownies we’ve had (and trust us, that’s a lot of brownies), but that made the taste complement the fist-sized scoop of gelato.

Emily (who considers herself to be a connoisseur of all things in the ice cream family) thought the texture of the gelato was a little too icy, but Krystal (who doesn’t live that kind of life) thought the gelato was delightful.

We started off with large bites, but the bites got smaller and smaller.

“I know we have a moral obligation to finish this, but I don’t think I’m strong enough,” Krystal said, conceding defeat at the end. “Go on without me. I’ve had a good run.”

She pushed the last bite across the table to Emily, who hung her head in despair, doubting her ability to continue.

She took a few deep breaths, scooped up the last bit of brownie and braced herself.

Victory. Sweet, sweet victory.

Lucchese’s Italian Restaurant is located at 655 C.R. 17 in Elkhart. Open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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