Enthusiasm and authenticity are the bywords at Lucca, the Quail Hill café/deli/wine bar run by Cathy and her husband Elliott. The couple both trained in architecture before turning to the restaurant trade--and we're glad they made the move. We grilled Cathy with our usual set of questions.
1. Dish that you cook that most represents you.
At home: Mostly pastas of all shapes and sizes.
At Lucca: Sometimes, when I can get them fresh, we do this incredible whole branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) roasted in a rock salt crust. We present the whole fish at the table and then filet it and drizzle it with herbed olive oil.
2. What was the last meal you had at home?
Penne pasta with my own Meyer lemons from the back yard, Israeli feta cheese, asparagus, leeks and parsley....and a dab of olive oil.
3. Your favorite restaurant (other than yours):
Kappo Honda in Fountain Valley--incredibly good Japanese small plates.
4. Fast food guilty pleasure:
Ruby's cheeseburger with Swiss cheese and grilled onions, cooked medium rare. Or fish tacos from Rubio's.
5. Complete this sentence: I would like to [verb] [Food Network Star] with [noun].
I would like to thank Gordon Ramsay with all my heart for providing such entertaining kitchen fantasies... that none of us would ever get away with in real life. But alas, a girl's got to dream...
6. Last meal of your life, what would it be?
My kitchen manager Araceli Leal's chicken tacos, rice and beans, and my Grandma Bottari's "Sunday Sauce".
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7. Items you always have in your refrigerator:
Bohemia beer, peanut butter, capers, Dijon mustard and this incredible truffle paste that I've been saving for a rainy day.
8. Your most indispensable kitchen tool or appliance:
My blow torch from Ace hardware and our Rational Combi Ovens.