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Review: Pizza Lucé turns one into a gluttonous fool because the food's so good

REVIEW What: Pizza Luc? Where: 11 E. Superior St., ground floor of the Technology Village. Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays. Perks: Partial bak...

REVIEW
What: Pizza Lucé
Where: 11 E. Superior St., ground floor of the Technology Village.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays.
Perks: Partial baked pizzas available, free delivery and pizza by the slice.
Rating: Four stars (out of 4)
It's the most talked about place in town. It made its way from the Twin Cities to Duluth, offering a boost of hope to a declining downtown environment.
As businesses have moved out, Pizza Lucé has moved in to the Technology Village, providing a hip place to hang out, have a beer and eat to the heart's content. Or, turn into a gluttonous fool because the food is so blasted good.
That's what I discovered last Friday during a lunch outing at Pizza Lucé with two co-workers.
The menu is extensive and diverse. The atmosphere and decor is an interesting mix of modern metallic and warm earth tones. The wait staff all wear black Pizza Lucé logo T-shirts.
The space is open and airy, with high ceilings and lots of natural light. We arrived a little after 11 a.m., and the place was practically empty. As we were being seated there was something none of us could understand: Why did we get seated in a booth next to a wall when there were plenty of tables basking in sunlight next to big windows looking out onto Superior Street?
Sure, we could have asked to be seated next to a window, but why should we have to ask? In my book, the choice between a cold wall and a bright, warm window is a no-brainer for any customer.
As we sat down, close to half-dozen wait staff waited anxiously for the lunch time rush that was sure to come. Our wait person was talkative and friendly. However, I got a sense that she and the others were still trying to find their work rhythm in a recently opened restaurant -- just an observation.
I needed an appetizer and chose the art dip ramekin ($6.25). This dish would turn out to be the opening act that's better than the headliner. Marinated artichoke hearts mixed with a special blend of ingredients, the menu says, served with two loaves of foccacia bread.
The three of us agreed that the dip and bread were fantastic, and we ate it all.
I also needed to try Lucé's specialty -- its pizza. Choosing which gourmet or vegetarian variety was a challenge, and I changed my mind several times.
I initially decided on the "Greek," then changed to the "spinocci," went back to the "Greek," but thought about trying the "baked potato," because it looked so original. Out of frustration I digressed and ordered the "Greek."
The 10-inch Greek pizza ($12.15) is loaded with spinach, artichoke hearts, mozzarella cheese, marinated Greek olives, feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, onions and Greek oregano. The crust is diplomatic, neither too thin nor too thick.
I had to think a little after the first bite. I wasn't sure how my taste buds would feel about the subsequent mouthfuls. But by the second bite my mind was made up. This was some good pizza. I also liked how it was served: set atop a huge can of quartered artichoke hearts to make for more table space.
For those who are wondering, the spinocci pizza has spinach, mozzarella, Wisconsin goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, and the "baked potato" pizza would impress any meat and potatoes kind of person.
Luce's homemade pizza crust is apparently smothered in buttery garlic baby red mashed potatoes and topped with broccoli, fresh diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese and diced bacon. Sour cream is served on the side.
One of my lunch partners ordered a single slice of plain old pepperoni, while the other ordered a chicken dijon hoagie ($6.15). That's right, a hoagie. Pizza Lucé offers much more than pizza, such as vegetarian appetizers (spicy veggie drummies), vegetarian hoagies, "build your own" pizzas, salads, soups, pasta salads (cold and hot) and a long list of beers and wines.
Lucé's is vegan and vegetarian friendly, offering plenty of choices and even cheese alternatives, such as soy cheese and Lucé's very own rinotta, or "uncheese."
Lucé's also says that all of its pizzas are prepared with whole grain flour and pure olive oil.
I highly recommend to those who dine at Pizza Lucé for the first time to get a little crazy, try the foccacia katerina appetizer, the BBQ mock duck pizza or the garlic mashed potato pizza. More than likely it will be a pleasant surprise.

Sandi Dahl covers food for the Budgeteer News. To reach her, call 723-1207 or send e-mail to sandi.dahl@duluth.com .

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