Whether you're in the mood for a romantic sit-down dinner or just a dynamite Italian sandwich, Lucia's is the place to go. Situated in the heart of Wicker Park, Lucia's is slim on frills but dripping with charm. The low-key ambiance is made by the eclectic crowd. Spanning generations, styles and income brackets, Lucia's loyal patrons have only one thing in common; they're addicted to down-home Italian cooking.
A basket of rustic Italian breads will be brought to the table right after you're seated. If perusing the menu gives you a headache—it's written mostly in Italian, but the waiters will help you out—just order whatever's on special for the night. This rarely disappoints, as the food here is unbelievably authentic. The owners are from Italy, so don't come expecting Americanized spaghetti and meatball concoctions. If you decide to start with an antipasti, you can choose to have your calamari grilled or fried. A simple dish consisting of tomato sauce, basil, and parmesan cheese, gnocchi alla Romana is a house specialty worth trying, as are the raviolis filled with everything from artichoke to pumpkin. Entrees are very affordable; expect to spend around $15-$25 total per person, with plenty of food to take home and nosh on later.
It might seem strange that an Italian restaurant doesn't have a liquor license, but the BYOB policy allows you to enjoy your favorite vino—with no corkage fee. Outdoor seating is available when the weather allows, so you can make like a true Italian and enjoy a leisurely meal in the elements. Sharing a kitchen with the restaurant is Lucia's Deli, an endearing little storefront that serves up hefty sandwiches on fresh Italian breads.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: K. Tighe