Lucky Luciano is full of small, fine surprises
Despite its location in a somewhat grungy neighborhood of Holešovice, Lucky Luciano would have made one lousy Mafia speakeasy.
In contrast to its vaguely Art Deco, gangster-themed interior and menu layout, the restaurant’s tranquil, flower-lined patio spills out onto busy Dělnická street, making it impossible to miss if you’re in the area. Its proximity to the popular Sir Toby’s Hostel, along with the restaurant’s English-fluent staff, attracts a good number of foreign tourists – there’s rarely an empty seat in the house.
What may be Al Capone’s loss is clearly Prague 7’s gain, because the eatery serves up plenty of fine pizzas, pastas, steaks and other pleasant specialties, most of which are a solid cut or two above comparable Italian eateries in town, and very reasonably priced.
It’s the small, finer touches that make all the difference at Lucky Luciano. The cacio di capra, a standard warm goat cheese appetizer, is boosted by a honey glaze and slices of hot chili peppers that give the dish a sweet, spicy kick. Similarly, the Verdura grigliata starter is, at first glance, a conventional (though meatless) antipasti mix of marinated eggplant, zucchini, mushroom caps and red bell pepper slices. However, a warm side of garlic dressing livens up the already flavorful platter with a zesty, creamy touch.
Unfortunately, what makes one dish a winner can work to the disadvantage of another. That garlic dressing reappears in the Vallone salad entrée, which contains many of the same ingredients as the Verdura grigliata starter, including the marinated eggplant. However, the presence of fresh mozzarella, normally a welcome addition to any salad, overpowers the flavor of almost everything else when combined with the dressing, giving the entire dish a bland taste and pasty texture. If you’ve ever wondered what mixing Elmer’s Glue with vegetable shortening is like, this dish seems to be a fair approximation.
But culinary blunders of that order are rare at Lucky Luciano. Among the most solid dishes are the pizzas – crispy, gooey and tasty enough to be finished in one sitting. The pizza Vendetta was the superior of the two sampled. Grilled chicken strips, broccoli florets, corn niblets and hunks of Camembert cheese were a perfect, colorful mix of toppings for the thin-crusted pie. While considerably less complex than the Vendetta option, the pizza prosciutto alla Provensano certainly wasn’t anything to shake a stick at, though it could have benefited from the addition of more cheese. While many pizzerias around town opt to top their pies with plain ham, Lucky Luciano keeps things native to Italy with thin strips of fresh prosciutto, pleasantly salty and tender.
Easily the most memorable of the entrees was the spaghetti alla puttanesca. Loosely translated as “whore’s spaghetti” or “good woman’s spaghetti” (depending on whom you ask), the famous dish has been said to represent “the bounty of the market” rather than the garden. It’s offered with varying degrees of success in many Italian restaurants around town, but Lucky Luciano’s version is truly stellar. The spicy, tangy sauce was flavored with plenty of salty green olives and pungent capers. A single (but large) slice of marinated eggplant, along with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan, topped off the colorful plate. And it came as yet another pleasant surprise to discover that the pasta itself was homemade.
Yet another dish with a salacious back story, tiramisu is said to have been a favorite of Venetian courtesans (who may have needed a pick-me-up in between their strings of amorous affairs). Whatever its true origin, the cool, creamy dessert – featuring espresso-soaked lady fingers layered in egg yolks and mascarpone cheese and topped with cocoa – has won legions of international followers. Lucky Luciano’s version is rather small but homemade, and, after the pizzas, you will likely only have room for half of the tantalizing Italian treat. You’ll be in heaven; or, rather, heaven will be in your mouth.
As for atmosphere, Lucky Luciano doesn’t go out of its way to offer anything special but is casually pleasant. Decorated with vintage travel posters and gangster mug shots, as well as a black-and-white checkered floor, the modern interior space is neat and clean. The dining room is lent a touch of authenticity by being directly adjacent to an enormous brick oven where the delicious pizzas are prepped.
Service ranged from adequate to altogether laissez-faire. On a final lunch rush visit, our server forgot our bread basket, and getting the check took an especially long time. Overall, staff members were usually amiable, if not always prompt.
At first glance, you might be tempted to dismiss Lucky Luciano as a backpackers’ haven. But it serves up some of the liveliest Italian dishes in town. And, even if you’ll be inhaling a bit of that infamous Holešovice dust, there may be no better way to enjoy the waning days of summer than with a pizza or some fine pasta on that enormous patio.
Tel. 220 875 900
Open Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
From the menu:
Spaghetti puttanesca 115 Kč
Verdura grigliata 82 Kč
Cacio di capra 89 Kč
Vallone salad 140 Kč
Pizza Vendeta 145 Kč
Pizza prosciutto alla Provensano 150 Kč
Tiramisu 60 Kč