Small is Beautiful: Lucia's Latin Kitchen
Lucia, the woman of the kitchen.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thursday night it started to rain. Driving home from Lee to North Adams, stopping somewhere for a quick, inexpensive dinner seemed like a pretty good idea. On the advice of a friend in Lenox, we decided to try Lucia's Latin Kitchen.
Convention has it, you should not make up your mind about a restaurant until you've eaten there at least twice. However, as it turns out, my partner-in-life and I had already tried Lucia's delicious "home-cooking" at last year's Northern Berkshire Food Festival. Thursday night was actually our second time trying Lucia's cuisine.
Open for just 18 months, Lucia's Latin Kitchen specializes in Ecuadorian food but Lucia also makes plain "Latin home cooking." If you're in the mood for handmade tortillas, this would be a great place to go.
It was very hard to decide what to order on Lucia's menu. There's a lot offered, from paella-like rice dishes to roasted pork or lamb, to breaded shrimp, but we both chose beef dishes and were not disappointed.
Lucia's cooking is homey in the best way. Perfectly cooked rice accompanied my wonderfully seasoned, grilled sirloin. The rice was topped with four pieces of fried plantain, a staple in the countries where it grows. Plantain tastes pleasantly like a mild, less-sweet banana but holds its shape well when cooked and is generally considered a starch. The beans beside the rice were delicious as well, tiny pieces of roast pork floated in the savory sauce surrounding perfectly cooked navy beans — all of it obviously cooked from scratch. The beans and rice alone would have made a great weekday meal, especially accompanied by Lucia's citrus, greens and onions salad, a piece of bread and some plantains.
My partner's dish included french fries and rice, and also came with two fried eggs on the side. His steak was also cut thin, seasoned and grilled but unlike mine, it was topped with stewed onions and tomatoes. I'm not sure he would have ordered it under any other circumstances but as we came into the tiny room, a table full of joggers were tucking into this dinner and it looked too good to miss.
As we began our meal, our server brought a little dish of hot sauce to the table. It looked innocent enough, a little watery with visible herbs and onions floating in the dish, but if you go, (and you should) a little of this sauce goes a very long way. I had a little dab of it on my rice, it was tasty but a bit over my hot tolerance. I was glad I hadn't slavered my steak in the stuff.
Top, a belly-filling steak and eggs for supper. Left, enjoying a meal.
Prices were extremely reasonable. Our meal for two came in at just under $30. You'd be very hard pressed to spend more than $50.
We accompanied our meal with Mexican soda, his in tamerind flavor and mine in apple. Happily full, we set off on our way north without dessert but I am saving up my appetite for next time, which will be sooner than later given the quality of the food.
Lucia's is tiny, the kitchen is wide open to the rest of the room and the whole place seats maybe 15 on a very busy night. As people discover this place (where you can get a whole roasted chicken with all the trimmings for under $20.) it is guaranteed to become more and more crowded. So get there before the summer people arrive and don't blab it all over the place, OK? I'm kind of attached to the corner table by the window.
Lucia's Latin Kitchen is located at 239 Onota St., Pittsfield; 413-442-4440
You can also find them on the web here.