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Lika Luca
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
ImageImported Italian flour and fresh ingredients make for memorable pies at Heights pizzeria

By Justin De La Rosa
While New Mexican cuisine rightfully dominates the culinary scene in Albuquerque, pizza is a close runner-up. We even make pizza New Mexican by chopping up green chile and adding it to our other favorite pizza toppings. There are enough options out there that it’s easy to miss some of the newer pizzerias that pop up. Pizzeria Luca & Wine Bar is one you don’t want to skip.
Luca has been turning out pizza, paninis and pasta since October 2011. Located in the far Northeast Heights, Pizzeria Luca is quite unsuspecting from the outside, but one step inside the door and you find yourself in a surprisingly charming pizzeria. High ceilings, brick walls, red-and-white checkered tiles and an impressive wine bar all work to create the ambiance of an East Coast pizzeria that allows for a casual yet upscale dining experience. Luca’s bar has a selection of local brews from Marble and La Cumbre breweries, as well as a wide selection of bottled beers. The real standout of the libations, however, is the wine list, which features over 50 wines spanning from red to white, sparkling to dessert. Wine can be bought by the glass or the bottle depending on your selection.

ImageMy dining companion and I stopped in for lunch on a recent Thursday afternoon. The menu offers Piccole Piastre (small plates) and salads for starters. We opted for the Insalate al Greco ($8), a traditional Greek salad of crisp romaine, feta cheese, kalamata olives, red onions, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. The salad was dressed with a perfect amount of Greek vinaigrette that served as a nice complement to the sharpness of the feta cheese.

Pizzeria Luca
& Wine Bar

11a-10p, Sun.-Thu.;
11a-10p, Fri.-Sat.
8850 Holly NE, 505.797.8086

There were a number of paninis offered that made for a difficult decision. All paninis can be ordered as a full sandwich ($8.50) or half sandwich ($5.50) with your choice of a side item. We opted for a half roast beef, which was served on a toasted rosemary focaccia bread and topped with caramelized onions, roasted peppers and pepper jack cheese, with a horseradish sauce or au jus for dipping on the side. The roast beef is prepared in-house and is perfectly seasoned and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The au jus adds a burst of flavor without overwhelming your palate, and could be most likened to an Italian beef sandwich. My side pasta salad served as a cool and soothing palate cleanser.

ImageThough the salad and sandwich were sumptuous, the real reason we were there was for the pizza. The menu offers house specials as well as a traditional Margherita. Pizzas can be ordered as 14-inch, 16-inch, personal-sized, and there is even a 10-inch gluten-free alternative. My companion and I ordered the 14-inch Modena ($15). The Modena is topped with Italian sausage, pepperoni, crimini mushrooms and roasted garlic.

I was expecting the usual perfect-circle coins of pepperoni and crumbles of sausage, but was in for a pleasant surprise. The pepperoni is hand-sliced, so each piece is of a different shape, size, and thickness, which makes each bite of the pizza unique. Small pieces of roasted garlic are scattered about the pizza, giving small bursts of flavor every few bites. What truly made the pizza special was the crust. The dough is made with imported Caputo flour from Napoli, Italy, then is cooked at over 700 degrees, creating an incredibly soft, yet slightly charred crust.

With the East Coast ambiance and authentic Italian eats, I felt it would only be appropriate to end the meal with a slice of New York cheesecake ($5). Though our appetites had been satiated, the cheesecake assured I would be leaving with a smile on my face. It was perfectly creamy and light with a sugary, crumbling crust. Drizzled chocolate syrup added an enjoyable sweetness to the cake.

Pizzeria Luca may be out of the usual neighborhood you dine in, but I can assure you, it is well worth it to get out of your norm and get up to the Heights for what is some of the best pizza the Duke City has to offer. I look forward to my return so I can try some of the pasta, calzones and other pizzas.
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