Over my blogging years, I have had the opportunity to attend lots of amazing events with delicious food, wine, and great people. Every now and then, I attend an event that is extra special, usually something to do with the people in attendance, and last night was one of those special evenings.
I was invited to a blogger dinner at Lucia in the North End, the theme of the evening being polenta. I love polenta but can never make it quite right myself, so I was excited to come in from the cold to feast on this hearty Italian staple.
Megan, Daisy, and I walked over to Lucia together from Daisy’s apartment, and when we arrived we were directed upstairs. The dining room that the event was in was cozy and lovely with painted ceilings and a long table that we all sat around.
One of Lucia’s owners, Donato, greeted us warmly and proceeded to spend the evening bringing us into his family business which has been right in that spot since 1977. Donato and his family are from Abruzzo region of Italy, and like people from every region, have their own style of food including polenta.
Donato explained to us that polenta is peasant food, simple and inexpensive fare that is served on the coldest days. Traditionally it is served on a wooden board, and everyone eats off of the board. It’s a food that really brings people together, and Donato and his staff really succeeded in doing that last night.
The Sangiovese (Rapido Red from Puglia) was flowing and provided a cozy, fruit forward sipper that, to me, went well with each course. It was an uncomplicated wine, the type that can please many palates.
Then the food started coming. We started with plates of meats, cheeses, roasted red peppers, and spicy marinated eggplant. I only discovered the eggplant toward the end of this course, but it had a kick that made me want to go back and eat the entire plate.
We also sampled crunchy bruschetta, one option topped with earthy mushrooms and a hint of truffle, the other topped with broccoli rabe.
The bitter green broccoli rabe made a beautiful accompaniment to olive-oil brushed grilled bread. I never would have thought to do this, but it’s something I would definitely make at home.
Donato also had this interesting shrimp dish sent up. The shrimp were lightly fried and dressed in a balsamic vinegar sauce that was tangy and delicious.
While we finished our appetizers, we all got to go down to the kitchen to check on the polenta. I love visiting restaurant kitchens, and it was fun to see all the action.
Donato, multi-tasking as he stirs the polenta and invites us into the kitchen
After we returned to our seats, we were presented with a polenta feast. One option contained rabbit and a truffle-laced sauce, another short ribs and sausage, and another topped with pork (and lamb, I think?). I did not try the rabbit itself, but I tried all of the polenta, some of the sausage, and short ribs, and I was blown away by the rustic simplicity and flavors of each bite. The sausage had the perfect level of spice, and the short ribs were fall-apart tender. And then there was the polenta. It was so smooth and creamy, nothing like the gritty polenta I make. I learned that I need to be getting finer corn meal and adding semolina and corn flour. I don’t know if will ever be able to make anything close to this polenta, but I will try.
Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, coffee and dessert came out. Plates of hazelnut cake with lemon and coconut gelato along with coffee capped off the evening perfectly. Both gelatos were dreamy, and the cake was nutty, slightly sweet, and would be the best breakfast ever, Megan and I decided.
The whole night felt very warm, cozy, and relaxed. There was lots of laughing and sitting back taking in the lively group of people around me. Lucia is homey with great food; when a place has been around that long, they have to be doing something right! After sharing the details of the evening, my husband has asked when I am going to take him to Lucia, so I am sure we will be there again soon.