[Sidebar] September 10 - 17, 1998
[Food Reviews]
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Pizza Lucia

Pizzeria pizza with a vegetarian heart

by Johnette Rodriguez

186B Thames St., Newport, 847-6355
Wed-Sun: Lunch, 12-3 p.m., dinner, 6-10 p.m
Pizzeria: 847-6355
Tues-Sun: Lunch: 12-3 p.m., dinner 5:30-10 p.m.
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Over the last four summers, we've become experts in the care and feeding of nephews, or at least the feeding. Give 'em pizza, and lots of it. Pita pizzas will do on the homefront, but to really make a hit, good ole pizzeria pizza is a must.

So it was that we found ourselves on a recent evening with New Jersey nephew Joey and two frazzled Marblehead friends, Jerry & Peipei, at Lucia Pizzeria. Eager pizza critics, we had just climbed off a sailboat that had limped into Newport Harbor. And Lucia came through with flying colors.

For starters, we had a choice of nine crescentina, or North Italian fried pizza. We chose the saporita ($6.95) and the fresca ($6.50). Cousins to pitas and tortillas, the two half-moon pizza-dough pockets had been lightly fried (not as much as dough-boys, but with a hint of that taste) and then filled with roasted sweet peppers and fontina for the saporita and lettuce, tomatoes, and provolone for the fresca.

From the selection of vegetable starters, we ordered the spinaci lucia, spinach sautéed with eggs, cream, and parmesan cheese ($3.95) and a bowl of the soup du jour -- onion ($4.50). Both were delicately prepared and quite delicious. And on a subsequent visit to Lucia's Italian Restaurant next-door, I noticed that a regular patron had ordered several of the vegetable starters as his meal -- oven-roasted potatoes with onions and peppers and Romano beans stewed in tomato sauce among them.

Indeed, the meatless choices at Lucia are delightful and include a red sauce made with soy beef and soy sausage, seitan (a wheat gluten formed into meat-like chunks) breaded and lemoned a la veal francaise, and seitan simmered in a vegetable and tomato stew. There are also meatless pastas, crescentinas, and pizzas. And you can even ask them to leave off the cheese.

From the traditional pizzas, Joey opted for a small "Pizza Bianca" ($8.95) with mascarpone, mozzarella, fontina, and provolone cheeses and roasted sweet peppers and onions. Although he has a very generous nature, Joey is a growing teenager. And his delight in his choice was evident in his delay in offering us any.

The rest of us, meanwhile, were fortified by a small "Pizza Lucia" ($8.95), relishing the capers and fresh basil tucked among the tomato slices, green peppers, onions, and mozzarella, and by a farfalle al prosciutto ($10.95), bow-tie pasta in a subtle and scrumptious white sauce with parmesan, prosciutto, and peas. Again, on our second visit, we overheard a diner raving about this same dish and Lucia relating to her that a visiting Gourmet editor had done the same and had asked for the recipe, which Lucia politely had refused to part with.

Proceeding to dessert, our party of five contemplated our choices, from the homemade tiramisu and mascarpone mousse to the two imported tortes -- one chocolate, one apricot. Peipei and I ended up splitting the tiramisu ($4.95), while Joey had a heaping portion of mint chocolate chip ice cream ($3.95). Lip-licking murmurs from both sides of the table told the tale. Indeed, the tiramisu was among the best I'd had -- liqueur-and-espresso-soaked ladyfingers with a flavorful custard between them rather than the bland whipped cream of some versions.

On our second visit, my husband, Bill, and I enjoyed two pasta dishes redolent with mushrooms and arugula: fusilli gustosi ($8.95) and ravioli filled with wild mushrooms and ricotta ($13.95). The latter was topped with fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and generous strips of the smoky-flavored arugula, while Bill's fusilli was in a light white sauce with romano and parmesan cheeses, mushrooms, and arugula.

There are many crossover dishes from restaurant to pizzeria, but meat entrées are served only at the former and pizzas only at the latter. The pizzeria is in rustic mode -- yellow walls and green-stained wainscotting with a large sunflower border in between. The restaurant is in a more elegant style -- wallpaper with tiny vines, mirrors covering one wall, linen tablecloths. But no matter which place you choose, you're bound to discover something out of the ordinary at Lucia's.

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