When someone puts all their heart into a restaurant they’re passionate about, it shows. Paul Hopkins has created Luccio’s, a little Italian restaurant with a worthy menu and plenty of ambition.
Here in one of Danshui Lu’s converted terraces a curious if not awkward mixture of Shanghai tradition and burgeoning boutiques and coffee shops. Perhaps that’s why the large windows looking onto the street are opaque: the restaurant is a retreat from the world outside.
The menu is traditional Italian with all courses accounted for and a detailed wine list with bottles reasonably starting around the RMB175 mark. A pristinely presented mound of grilled baked aubergine with mozzarella (RMB68) tastes simple and clean, demonstrating the versatility of the vegetable in capable hands. Similarly well composed is a rich bowl of creamed leek and pistachio soup (RMB43). Topped with flakes of Parmesan, it is almost too hearty and filling to be a soup, and that is indeed no detractor.
Hopkins’ chefs are well versed in the simplicities of good, safe Italian preparation. A meatball and tomato pasta (RMB88) with precisely al dente spaghetti and small-succulent nuggets of ground beef is as it should be but not overwhelming in flavor. A four seasons pizza (RMB98) is also rightfully decked out and tastefully balanced with ham, artichokes, tomato and olives, but in this price range there are more masterful pizzas to be found elsewhere in town.
Luccio’s is an embarkation on a personal story. Right now it’s delivering a satisfying meal. We’re looking forward to when they’ve found their feet and a specials board shows confident forays into explosive Italian cuisine.