Despite my abhorrence of driving to Powell, I had to check out the latest and greatest updates to Luce Enoteca from Chef and owner Alex Rodriguez (not the one who dated Madonna and tested positive for steroids in 2003; rather the one who opened the Rossi and the BoMA restaurant in Columbus).
Luce has been open for many years. Rodriguez kept the small plates concept, the fun wines by the glass and the cool ambiance while improving upon a few of the Italian classics on the menu.
There are many vegetarian small plates and salads available. The tomato bisque, the Luce salad, the Mediterranean salad, the beet and pear salad, the cheese plate, the olive plate and the roasted tomato and mozzarella napoleon are all meatless starters. There are also vegetarian sandwiches and pizzas on the menus, as well as a vegetarian special on the dinner menu. The thick, crusty bread is served with olive oil and mashed red peppers.
The daily special was cream of wild mushroom soup, which was also vegetarian-approved. The rich cream had layers of mushroom flavor that were absolutely divine.
The beet and pear salad was also a treat. The pears were poached in riesling with a hint of saffron. The beets and the crumbled goat cheese provide a tart foil to the fruit's sweetness. The greens and the dressing bind the flavors together. The dish looked as good as it tasted.
The eggplant parmesan is as good as I have ever tasted. The eggplant is cooked until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender. It is breaded and stuffed with melted mozzarella cheese, covered in a bright pomodoro sauce flaked with basil.
Wines are served by the bottle, by the glass and in flights. Some cool by the glass options include Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Ferrari Carano Chardonnay, Rocche Roccado Nebbiolo (bottled for Luce only), Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti, Benton Lane Pinot Noir, Altos Malbec, and the Norman Monster Zin. Bottle choices include a broad swath of Italian wines in addition to other choices from both the Old and New World. The beer selection is amazing, and the cocktail list also looks interesting.
The staff offers prompt, knowledgeable service. They did an excellent job of addressing my vegetarian concerns. The bar area is complete with a fireplace and stands in contrast to the more formal main dining area. The bar would be more fun if you didn't have to make the horrible drive out of Powell afterward. The locals must eat it up.