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Ferragosto – the most important holiday of the year in Italy – is just days away. Celebrated on August 15th, it’s a celebration of togetherness. Aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents and great-grandparents gather together for multi-generational parties, the most popular being la scampagnata (the picnic). The festivity, as with many Italian traditions, puts food at the forefront of the celebrations, and what better way to start celebrating Ferragosto than to share with you my experience enjoying an authentically Italian meal hosted recently by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina at Restaurante Da Lucas!
“Our cuisine is a way of expression which tells a story of who we are, it delves into our roots, represents us abroad, and like art or landscapes, is part of active culture that merges tradition and innovation, and for this reason needs to be preserved.” This is the foundation for the Accademia Italiana della Cuicina (AIC), a non-profit cultural organization which looks to preserve the gastronomic heritage of Italian cuisine. We were delighted to join the members of the Dominican delegation of the AIC on a visit to Restaurante da Lucas in Buena Vista.
I arrived at Restaurante Da Lucas just before the event was set to start and was greeted by Mr. Mario Boeri, Delegate for the AIC, who explained that Restaurante da Lucas has been evaluated by them for years now. He proudly mentioned that our local restaurant has managed to stay within the handful of restaurants in the DR that the organization values as exceptional Italian establishments year after year. However, I was quickly able to tell that this was not a casual meal… I was in for a treat! There were AIC flags waving on the table, a bell that could be decades old sitting proudly in front of Mr. Boeri’s place setting, and scoring cards placed underneath the Academic’s places ready for the serious scrutiny that was about to take place.
Every month the 17 academic members of the delegation visit a different restaurant looking to evaluate whether or not the establishment is perpetuating the traditions of the Italian cuisine. The meal, establishment and service is evaluated meticulously and scored. The scoring is sent to the AIC’s headquarters in Milan, where it is decided if the restaurant is worthy or not of
being included in “Civilta’ della Tavola,” a monthly publication distributed around the world and which includes a review of Italian restaurants evaluated by the 211 Delegations in Italy and abroad.
Despite the formal nature of the event, AIC members were incredibly friendly and looking forward to introducing me to their work. Meanwhile, Alessandro and Lisa, owners and Chef of Restaurante Da Lucas were visibly excited and nervous at the same time as they prepared for the important meal. After some introductory words by Mr. Boeri and the chiming of the AIC bell marking the start of the event, out came the food and wine as orchestrated as a well rehearsed symphony.
I sat next to Mr. Boeri and spent the entire 2 hour meal asking questions and finding out more about the AIC. Here’s a look at the meal and some of his thoughts:
The meal started with an plate of aged Italian cuts and gourmet olives and capers. “This restaurant is careful about selecting well-crafted cuts and you can tell this is a good quality product. Italian cuisine is all about simple yet good quality ingredients.” – MB
We moved on to a pasta dish comprised of Spinach and Cheese Ravioli with a Walnut Sauce. “When tasting Italian pasta, you have to look for a very balanced dish. You don’t want the sauce to overpower the pasta or its filling. This is a good example of a well-balanced dish. You are able to taste every ingredient without one overpowering the others. This is a very traditional dish from the Liguria region of Italy, where the owners are from. We always try dishes from the Chef’s hometown.” – MB
Just when I thought the meal was about to be over, out came the meat. A Roast Beef with Onion Sauce and Baked Potatoes. “This cut of meat is very difficult to prepare and tends to be tough. However, it is perfectly tender, the sauce is well-prepared, and doesn’t overpower the taste of the meat. Don’t underestimate these potatoes, as they are one of the best parts of this dish!” – MB
My favorite part of the meal was finally served, the dessert! An Amaretto Flan that was very smooth and not too sweet. Five star valuation from me!
Given that Sandro is also a Sommelier (take a look at his article on the 10 things you should know when ordering wine at a restaurant!), the wine pairings were very much on point throughout.
As the meal came to an end, Mr. Boeri stood up and thanked Chef Lisa and Sandro for the excellent meal and service. He remarked it being outstanding and chimed his bell to mark the end of the event. As the members of the AIC turned in their evaluation cards, Mr. Boeri secretly showed me a card by one of the members in bold letters running over the entire page that read, “The Best AIC Meal of 2016”. Mr. Boeri then told me… “We still have to count everyone’s scoring and send to Milan, but this is a pretty good indication of what we can expect…”
Just a few days later Mr. Boeri sent the following message: “I have the great pleasure to inform you that Restaurant Da Lucas received an average score of 8.0 points. I offer you my warmest congratulations on behalf of all the Academics. I should also point out that the lowest score received is still one that categorized the event as “very good “.
The excellent scoring received makes us extremely proud as the AIC continues to recognize our over 16 years of efforts, maintaining high quality and standards for Italian cuisine in the DR. We are even more overjoyed considering that, despite our modest establishment, we have obtained one of the best scores out of all the restaurants evaluated in the country. For this we feel extremely proud.” – Alessandro & Chef Lisa
With “very good” being the lowest score granted, I think it’s safe to say that Restaurante Da Lucas is right up there as the “very best” Italian restaurant in La Romana! Congratulations Lisa and Sandro for an exquisite meal and for this accolade!
Restaurante Da Lucas
Plaza Buena Vitsa, Av. Las Robles
Buena Vista Norte, La Romana
Click on an image below to see a map:
Tue. – Sat., 5pm – 11pm (Closed on Mondays)
Sun., 11am – 11pm
(809) 550-3401, [email protected]
Photography by Laura Perdomo.