APPARENTLY, Huntsville, Alabama's top Italian restaurant, Luciano, will soon top itself. . .
I chose to dine at Luciano last night in celebration of my birthday, as I dined there once before and was delighted (I ordered duck that night, which was separated very carefully into sections, which were then each prepared differently). Some of the items on the menu are not priced for those on a small budget, this is true, but the old bit about getting what one pays for is also true in this case.
The front of the restaurant has the feel of a comfortable but elegant kitchen, the back room, of a lounge, and the lower level of a courtyard, complete with fountain. . . even so, the decor does not feel disjointed or odd (as many a decor so heavily "themed" might feel in the hands of a less clever designer), on the contrary, the restaurant is a wonderful place for relaxing, talking, and enjoying a splendid meal.
Last night, I ordered the Veal Saltimbocca, a dish made with scallopini rubbed with sage and then topped with prosciutto and a light sauce; along with this dish were calamari and ravioli, bread and wine-- in my case Est!! Est!! Est!!, a semi-sweet white wine from Montefiascone which, according to legend, got its name in the 1100's when German bishop Johann Fugger, who was travelling to Rome, sent his lackey ahead of him to mark the doors of inns serving good wine "Est!" ("It is!") Apparently, this fellow liked the wine in Montefiascone so much that he marked the door "Est!! Est!! Est!!"
I do agree with him, vinum est bonum!!
And then, a surprise-- the tiramisu. Around Huntsville, tiramisu tends to be no more than custard with a bit of chocolate, strawberry/rasberry sauce, and/or coffee flavoring involved. This was real tiramisu. My guests and I, having given our compliments to the chef via the waiter, found ourselves talking to him. He has been in Huntsville but a short time after gaining much experience with cooking, including attending culinary school in Italy, and is gradually (and enthusiastically) implementing changes in the recipes and quality of ingredients at Luciano that will make the food more authentically Italian and the experience of dining there all the more pleasant.
To this, I say, Bravissimo!!