Food Review: De Luca
***- Good Italian fare hiding behind a pretentious name.
De Luca – ‘Cucina and bar’
83 Regent St. Cambridge, CB2 1AW, 01223 356666, www.delucacucina.co.uk
De Luca is conveniently for me, and inconveniently for anyone from almost any other college, placed half way down Hills Road. The unassuming Tardis like front turns out to be a big restaurant with very few people in – maybe its lunch time or maybe its claims to fresh produce and lunch time specials on the black board outside are overshadowed by the next door deli’s yummier proposals in bigger, more swirly chalk marks? Definitely because it has a huge personality complex, confusing itself with somewhere that might qualify as ‘The Finest Restaurant In Cambridge’ as someone equally disillusioned from Time Out said of it. De Luca is underrated by the people not filling its tables, but in its own opinion far over rated. On their website they nauseatingly describe their kitchen as ‘the theatre’. Whilst the food is good, there is no drama.
Slipping an Italian word into the catchphrase seems to be shouting loud and clear a determination to be pretentious. Immediately one has to adopt the voice of someone who speak in foreign languages mid sentence, because they think it’s witty and essentially, though they would never admit it, just to prove they can. So, after talking to yourself in an awful Italian accent you are left as you walk in with expectations that the whole experience is going to be attempt to suggest some kind of culture, be a bit pleased with itself but leave you content enough to say to other people ‘I just had lunch at De Luca, cucina and bar’. Pause – they are wondering who on earth you are whilst you are thinking, ‘I am so damn cultured’. Pause ends – ‘It means kitchen in Italian’, cue you walking off feeling smug. You have just become one of those people. And you love it.
However, beyond the name there is not really anything pretentious about it. The menu is good Italian fare, with normal sized portions of pasta, good salads, chicken, steak, fish and the rest. I had a stuffed bell pepper to start, which was good, tasty and had been made on the on the spot. But, I do use the term good after consideration. In much the same way that when you ask a friend how you look before you go out the response good leaves you with a twinge of dissatisfaction. The massive menu does need a bit of navigating, with various dishes appearing a number of times with different prices attached – my Mum was adamant that the starter squid salad tasted better than the Iceland calamari it resembled, until she saw my really stunning main advertised under exactly the same description. There are glamorous touches like the beautiful bowls, and I promise I have never been awestruck by a bowl before, nor am I proud of it, and good house wine. The staff dealt with my elderly grandmother charmingly – not a flicker of confusion encroaching on their mellow faces when she thought they were me, perhaps out of bored detachment with so little to do, but I actually think because they were just nice. It really was value for money – for 3 of us, two drinking wine and two having a starter and main course we paid £45 so a reasonably priced date (let us girls dream that someone would consider that kind of money spent on us reasonable) or a special student occasion. I would go back if someone wanted to take me and look forward to it but hope and pray that the over enthusiastic Time Out writer was disillusioned, rather than disheartened by Cambridge cuisine.
Do take me up on my recommendation for De Luca as a relaxed, good, friendly restaurant if that sounds like your kind of thing, and ignore their sales pitch as a glitzy, gourmet place to mingle with other pretentious people. Its not that.