By B.A. Nilsson
Church St., Lenox, Mass., (413) 637-2640. Serving dinner Tue-Sun
5:30-10. AE, CB, D, DC, MC, V.
I took a gamble and reserved a seat on the deck. When I visited
in 1995, a downpour kept me inside, but it was an extremely
pleasant meal in which all the little details were perfectly
Perhaps it’s a function of dining outdoors this time, but
those details have slipped somewhat in the intervening years.
Owner Jim Lucie, who has run the restaurant since 1983, wasn’t
there the night of my recent visit, and there was a Tanglewood
crowd also to contend with, but I still think this has the
potential to be a faultless experience.
The major problem, and it’s one that hobbles fine restaurants
everywhere, is service. Even if your employees are hired on
the most fleetingly seasonal basis, you need to plug them
into a workable system. And the only one that works worth
a damn is the captain-waiter system, also known as inside-outside
This puts someone on the floor at all times, who thus is always
available to needy customers. Another server works the kitchen,
placing and picking up orders, which are served by whomever
is most available. This guarantees that at least two servers
are working each table; if it’s busy enough, someone else
should be busing tables as well.
Because the (outdoor, at least) service at Café Lucia is one
server per station, we had only one very busy server (whose
station was inexplicably filled well before those of other
servers) to attend to our needs, so water went unrefilled
and bread wasn’t replenished—and the bread is served roll
by roll, which is elegant but demands more constant server
I arranged to meet a high school friend for an early dinner
between Tanglewood concerts, and so I fled the grounds even
as the last note of the Eroica symphony rang in the
air, to avoid being stuck behind all those Bostonians on walkers.
This put me at my Café Lucia table well ahead of the reservation
time, and I sat in the pleasant sunshine and worked on some
As I waited, I ordered an appetizer of house-roasted peppers
and anchovies ($10). This is where we get down to the basics
of worthy ingredients: Fresh bell peppers (red and yellow),
prepped on the premises. Large salt-cured anchovy slices.
Currant-sized capers. Salty? You bet. Delightfully so. Matched
by the sweetness of the peppers and the yeasty crunch of the
rolls served alongside.
I wanted a glass of wine to go with it, something fairly light,
but of the two whites available by the glass, the Orvieto
turned out to be unavailable. “Can I get any other non-Chardonnay
by the glass?” I asked.
Wrong answer. Jack’s Oyster House in Albany has the right
idea: The answer, the menu declares, is always “yes.” Open
a bottle of something. You’re going to get five or six glasses
out of it. At $7 per glass, you’ll gross $35 to $42, more
than the listed price of many of the whites.
So I opted for a glass of sherry—and how nice, for once, to
find my favorite aperitif actually available. It’s otherwise
quickly disappearing from bars and restaurants.
The Tanglewood crowd caught up with me. Surrounding tables
filled. I overheard the enthusiastic opinions of the concertgoers,
and marveled again at what little focused attention people
give to music.
When Rod arrived, we settled into the meal for real. He chose
a soppressata-based appetizer ($12), featuring a soft Tuscan
salami made from coarsely chopped pork head and tongue that’s
larded and spiced. It’s served with a liberal helping of way-fresh
baby arugula (from Sky Farm) garnished with shavings of pecorino
Romano cheese and large Calabrese olives.
Like my peppers-and-anchovies appetizer, you create flavor
combinations yourself with this dish. With olive oil, bread
and a full-bodied glass of wine, you can do wonders on the
palate. Rod was sipping a Chianti; I’d moved to the house
Soup of the day ($7) was made from sweet Vidalia onions with
some cloves of roasted garlic peeking through; chicken stock
and rice finished the simple brew, although the few grains
of rice seemed like an afterthought. Great flavor, though.
Café Lucia offers an à la carte menu, so salads come at a
price ($8 or $9, to be exact); we skipped to entrées, which
are divided between a half-dozen pasta items and about as
many meats. Pasta variations, priced from $14 to $26, include
a straightforward marinara, a Bolognese sauce, rigatoni with
hot sausage and, as Rod ordered, linguini and scallops in
a light seafood sauce ($26).
Scallops, when you can find good ones, don’t aggressively
shout their flavors, so it’s important to moderate the accompaniments.
A barely intrusive velouté spread its richness on the palate,
with help from a cautious sprinkling of sun-dried tomato bits
and chopped scallions.
The seafood special of the day was grilled striped bass ($25),
two small sections of which were served alongside arugula
and shaved cheese. Wonderful as it tasted, it’s not much for
25 bucks. These are Lenox prices, though, and echo in the
nearby restaurants. My sense of value says, however, that
such a price means you ought sit on something classier than
We finished with a couple of homemade desserts: Torta della
Nonna, a perennial favorite, features a lemon cream and
shortbread crust, and cannoli cake ($7 for each dessert) puts
the familiar flavor of sweetened ricotta into a fluffy cake.
After an espresso apiece, we headed back to Tanglewood.
Dinner for two, with tax, tip, desserts and a few glasses
of wine, was $162.
AIDS Council of Northeastern
New York presents its 12th annual benefit in Saratoga at the
National Museum of Dance at 6 PM on Sunday, Aug 4. A buffet
dinner will be catered by Michael’s/The Franklin Plaza, and
there will be music by John Charles Cook, the Michael Panza
Trio and the Bennington Woodwind Quintet. Also featured is
a silent auction of unique collectors’ pieces and personal
services. Tickets are $125 per person and are available by
calling the Council’s office at 434-4686, ext. 217. For more
info about the council, visit the website www.aidscouncil.org.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland. (Special
e-mail bonus: send info to firstname.lastname@example.org!)
fax info to 922-7090)