My boss, Daniel, and one of my colleagues, John, came into Chicago recently for a couple meetings and it happened that I was in town at the same time. I met up with them and we went out to dinner at a good little Italian restaurant I've eaten at about four or five times before, Cafe Lucci in Glenview. (see map)
The Arifi family - Bobby, the operations manager; and Augie, the head chef (right); have run Cafe Lucci for nearly 13 years. Chef Augie Arifi specializes in Northern Italian cooking, as well as conjuring up items that have both a Mediterranean and French flair.
Cafe Lucci just underwent an extensive remodeling project and the interior, while very nice before, looks even more nice now. The square bar area is still very nice, but the dining area features darker tones and colors compared to the lighter colors they had before. The atmosphere is much more contemporary compared to the "old world" Italian theme they had before.
It turns out the Daniel had eaten there before, back when we used to sell Focal loudspeakers to Abt Electronics, which is just down the street from Cafe Lucci. He said, "Oh, yes, I remember this place. They have a great wine list."
Whereas I can remember how good the food is at a restaurant, Daniel remembers places for their wine. That's the French Canadian in him.
We got in just before 9 p.m. and we were seated immediately. We got our menus and a basket of bread with olive oil. Because it was so late, we really didn't want much of a heavy meal, but everything looked so good on the menu.
Daniel ordered up one of the specials that evening which was a grilled sea bass and John got the Cioppino. He said, "I'm a sucker for good Cioppino and I'll bet this place makes good Cioppino." I ended up getting the Veal Scampi, lightly breaded veal medallions with grilled shrimp scampi cooked in a lemon wine sauce. With our meals, we each got a small dinner salad with the house Italian dressing.
For the wine, since everyone was getting something with seafood we picked out a 2004 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc, reasonably priced at $36 bucks (although I can find it in stores for as low as $12.99). The Ferrari-Carano wines are some of my favorites and the Fume Blanc is a wonderful and zesty dry white.
In short, our meals were very good. Daniel liked the sea bass saying it was exactly what he was looking for in a light, but flavorful meal. John declared the Cioppino as being "excellent, surprisingly excellent." He said he thought it would be very good, but he said it was some of the best Cioppino he's had outside of San Francisco. And my veal and scampi was also very good. It was served in a light butter and wine sauce that was very flavorful. And it wasn't filling so I knew I'd be able to sleep well that evening.
Eating dinner at Cafe Lucci isn't all that cheap - with the wine and a tip, the bill came to just under $150 dollars. But every time I've eaten here, it's been very, very good. If you find yourself in the North Shore area of Chicago and are looking for an elegant place to eat with great food, outstanding service and and a great atmosphere, I highly recommend Cafe Lucci.