Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019
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Luciano’s evolution

Pan-fried provolone with baby arugula and sun-dried tomato and basil pesto.

Luciano’s restaurant has built its reputation on Italian offerings, and now 15 years to the month of their emergence onto the Bahamian market, Executive Chef Lorenzo Martinez has installed a grill in the kitchen, which has allowed for an expansion to the restaurant’s offerings, with emphasis placed on seafood and steak, as the popular waterfront eatery evolves into Luciano’s Seafood & Steaks in an effort to remain fresh, modern and relevant. An expanded seafood, steak and salad menu intermingle with some of the restaurant’s Italian classics, which means their top-selling pastas are still a hot commodity.

A flavorful 12-ounce bone-in New York strip steak is the star of the menu’s grill offerings alongside filet mignon and prime rib, as well as grilled veal chop, and a top sirloin steak thermidor topped with lobster and shrimp. Jumbo shrimp, lobster tail and salmon filet are among the 14 items on the expanded grill menu.

Among the seven seafood entrée additions are a seared Nassau grouper habanero and a grilled seafood platter with new offerings that include garlic shrimp, calamari, snapper filet and lobster tail.

Spicy butter shrimp (smothered in a spicy, butter sauce of herbs, spices, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and lemon) is one of those new items that will steal the show on the appetizer menu and can be had as a starter or tossed with angel hair pasta as an entrée. A more than generous blue cheese stuffed meatballs will entice you to order your own when you see a plate leave the kitchen.

Top sirloin steak thermidor, grilled and topped with lobster and shrimp thermidor, a new item from Luciano’s grill menu.

House favorites include the osso bucco, chicken or eggplant parmesan, Luciano’s paella, Mediterranean lamb shank, bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken breast and Luciano’s baby back ribs.

And pasta lovers can take their pick of nine items, four of which are new to the menu – the rigatoni al forno, smoky pork ragout and lobster mac and cheese – Bahamian style.

Martinez is also featuring a wedge Romaine Caesar salad – and that’s just scratching the surface of the new menu items.

The chef said he and his staff are excited about the new menu that launched this week.

“I like the new menu, and now I have a big grill, so I’m excited and all the cooks are excited.”

With the addition of approximately 30 new items, the restaurant has also seen the return of popular items like the minestrone soup – a hearty Italian soup that incorporates a wide variety of vegetables topped with flavorful Parmesan cheese; as well as the classic Bahamian conch chowder, which will be offered with a chef’s soup of the day – whatever Martinez chooses to do.

The entrée salads are just as enticing with a roasted beet salad (slow-roasted beets, baby arugula, purple onion, caramelized walnuts and gorgonzola crumbles with balsamic glaze); a baby spinach salad (crispy bacon, dried cranberries, feta cheese and red onions), topped with boiled eggs and a red wine vinaigrette. And I got super excited to see sides like street corn on the cob and Parmesan truffle pub fries – well…because I’ve enjoyed street corn in Mexico and when done right, is grilled to perfection – hot and golden and sweet and smoky with a bit of Mexican zip and zest with the addition of smoky seasonings like zesty lime juice and crumbled Cotija cheese. Also, you can put truffle oil on cardboard and I will eat it. But in this case, Chef Martinez drizzles it over French fries, and sends it to the table piping hot. The earthy, umami scent of the truffle is intoxicating.

During a recent dinner, Chef Martinez curated a menu of new offerings, and knowing he would never steer a patron wrong, I sat back and allowed him to do his thing. The chef never steers you wrong.

The spicy butter shrimp, which I had already decided I would order, was one of the first items Chef Martinez brought to the table. It was delicious in its buttery goodness and hint of spice from three types of peppers the chef adds to the dish, which is rounded out by the umami flavor of the Worcestershire sauce and hint of citrus.

He followed the shrimp with his blue cheese stuffed meatballs. Whatever you think of meatballs, discard the thought, because you can’t fathom the size and the flavor that you get. Luciano’s appetizer portion is generous, to say the least. The giant-sized meatballs are surprisingly tender, enrobed and nestled in a fragrant Alfredo blue sauce for a delightful bite. Blue cheese lovers are going to go bonkers over this one.

Baby Brussels are fried until crispy, hit with garlic oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, and are served hot. Their popularity since the menu launch has even taken the chef by surprise.

I had my eye on the baby spinach salad and the roasted beets salad, but the chef had other ideas as he sent out the heart of Romaine Caesar salad – which he serves wedge style with their in-house-made Caesar dressing that’s creamy with just the right amount of tang and sprinkled with in-house made croutons.

Luciano’s baby back ribs – slow-roasted with balsamic glaze, roasted potatoes and street corn on the cob, a new menu item, as well as a house favorite.

The 11-item appetizer menu also features deviled eggs, a classic that’s held up over the decades. The Luciano’s version features smoked salmon with capers and chives for a delightful saltiness to the creamy. Four portions per order served.

Pasta is such an incredibly versatile food and in honor of that, the Luciano’s menu gives a variety of offerings. The wedge of lobster mac and cheese that’s cooked Bahamian-style hits all the right notes. Again, generous in size, it’s topped with chunks of crispy lobster and enrobed in a four-cheese sauce that will have you digging in bite after delicious bite.

I’d been leaning towards the classic bone-in New York strip or the grilled veal chop, but the chef opted for the top sirloin steak thermidor, which was grilled to a perfect medium-rare, and topped with lobster and shrimp thermidor. It was spot on.

From the house favorites, Chef Martinez went with the Luciano’s baby back ribs, which would probably have been the last item on the menu that I would have even thought about ordering, but these slow-roasted with balsamic-glazed ribs served with roasted potatoes and street corn on the cob had me licking my fingers – and the bone, I might add. The ribs were flavorful, tender and melted in the mouth. You didn’t need a knife to cut into these ribs which had a hint of sweetness from the balsamic vinegar. He served it with a side of his Parmesan truffle pub fries and I was in gastronomy heaven.

The mahi mahi caponata was served simply grilled with Sicilian artichoke caponata. The sweet and sour caponata was given a briny kick from the artichoke hearts for a bright and flavorful addition to the fish.

Mahi mahi caponata, simply grilled mahi mahi fish with Sicilian artichoke caponata.

Chef Martinez took me on a delightful journey through some of the new menu items. And I really and truly hadn’t left any room for dessert, so I simply ordered a cappuccino to finish my meal. That was until my husband, with whom I shared this delightful meal, decided to indulge in the chocolate rum raisin bread pudding, Luciano’s signature dessert. It’s a generous square of their homemade bread soaked in rum, brown sugar and vanilla with chocolate ribbons and raisins, served warm with caramel sauce and rum raisin ice cream.

I was sipping my meal-ending cappuccino when the bread pudding was set before him. It was so beautifully decadent, nestled in its bed of caramel and chocolate, that I could not help but dig in just for a taste…just to see if it tasted as good as it looked. I was hooked. I went back for seconds and thirds and it complemented my cappuccino perfectly.

Leaving myself in Chef Martinez’s hands was definitely worth it. The chef, who has been with the restaurant since its doors opened in 2004, is pleased as punch with the new menu additions and the feedback he’s received since it launched a mere four days ago.

Shavaughn Moss

Lifestyles Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Shavaughn Mossjoined The Nassau Guardianas a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor.Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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