Luce is a cozy, hole-in-the-wall window to order fresh Italian pasta right off the Downtown Mall. I heard about Luce through some friends at the University who only had amazing things to say. Charlottesville has local takeout food options that hit almost every category such as Brazos Tacos, Roots’ salads, Bodo's Bagels, The Flat‘s crepes and more. However, a restaurant that specializes in takeout Italian pasta hadn’t existed as a local, affordable and easy meal option before Luce opened.
There is street parking next to Luce, and it has its own small lot which you can’t park in for long periods of time. Regardless, it is relatively easy to find a place to leave your car for a few minutes to grab pasta next door. Right off the sidewalk, Luce can be accessed by wheelchair. The fact that this restaurant is simply a window makes it perfect for a lunch break or takeout for a movie and wine night. I decided to try Luce for a quick dinner on a Monday evening. My pasta only took minutes to be ready, so even if there was a line, I assume that wait time would not be long.
There were only two staff members present — a chef and a girl working the register. The kitchen was so small that really only two people could fit, but they worked efficiently. They were both incredibly friendly, and the chef came out of the small kitchen to help me decide what to order. He mentioned that one of the owners, Travis Burgess, started the pasta window from a childhood obsession with the pasta his father would make.
The outside of the building is a white painted brick with the name of the restaurant printed along the side with bright blue and yellow details, adorned with fairy lights strung between an adjacent lamppost. The decor catches the eye immediately and gives off a local, quirky feel.
Luce is unique because it offers homemade, premium quality pasta for a low price. For just $9 or $10, you can get 16 ounces of pasta made from scratch with fresh ingredients. I’m always willing to spend a little more to avoid processed foods, eat fresh ingredients and support local businesses. The best part is that going to Luce doesn’t even mean spending more money. The price of $10 is about the same amount as any meal from chain restaurants such as Noodles & Company.
Luce offers a small but high-quality selection. The menu consists of three pasta options — “Cacio,” “Bolo” and “Pistou.” Cacio is a $9 traditional cacio e pepe dish made with homemade tagliatelle pasta with parmesan, olive oil, butter and cracked pepper. Pistou is $10 and gives off summer vibes — it’s spaghetti with shaved zucchini, confit tomato and basil pesto.
I ordered Bolo, and this $10 pappardelle pasta is accentuated with a Bolognese sauce, homemade pork ragu, toasted crumbs, mint and parmesan. The pasta was cooked perfectly — not too al dente, but not soggy. The chef prepares the dishes in direct view before placing each pasta in cardboard containers similar to ice cream pints. When you open the container, the pasta is practically steaming, making this the perfect spot for comfort food on a cold winter night. Their kitchen is completely open to viewers, allowing customers to check out the fresh ingredients used and the careful attention that goes into crafting each serving.
My meal was one of the best pastas I have ever had in Charlottesville. Despite being a casual takeout restaurant, no amount of flavor or decadence was sacrificed to make this pasta so quickly and casually. The pasta was bursting with flavor, and the toasted crumbs and parmesan on top added just the right amount of texture.
Beyond pasta, Luce offers a $10 caesar salad with kale, shaved brussels, confit tomato, toasted crumbs, parmesan and caesar dressing. They also have a dessert option that the chef recommended to me — the Torta Di Formaggio — a cheesecake made of ricotta, pistachio and white chocolate with a thick biscotti marzipan crust. Luce also sells San Pellegrino drinks in assorted flavors for $2 each.
I only have positive things about my experience at Luce, and I think it adds a perfect flare to the well-loved array of Charlottesville local cuisine. Luce has potential to make a big impact, so be sure to stop by the next time your carb craving strikes!