Restaurante Lucia, located on the first floor of The Charlee Hotel in Parque Lleras, specializes in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.
I’ve always admired the interior decor, with the framed-mirrors covering the ceiling, the hanging lights and the views of the park, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I took the time to sit down and enjoy a meal there.
Greeting me at my table was Venezuelan Chef John Herrera, who is one of the most amiable chefs I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. He moved to Medellín a few years ago and is currently in charge of Lucia’s kitchen.
I learned this responsibility includes catering hotel events that take place in spaces like the Envy Rooftop Bar, as well as cooking for guests who stay in some of the more exclusive rooms, like the Spice Room which includes a Teppanyaki Grill on the balcony.
I also learned that Venezuela has a large Italian population, thereby making authentic Italian food more common than it might otherwise have been.
My Tuesday evening dinner began with a glass of the house red wine, and a plate of fresh bread with a yin and yang-inspired bowl containing olive oil and a homemade balsamic sauce. Immediately, I could tell Lucia cares about the presentation of their food.
Looking over the menu, there were no shortage of dishes that caught my attention.
The appetizer list alone was filled with classes like prosciutto-wrapped melon (21,000 pesos, $10.50) and bacon-wrapped scallops (27,000 pesos, $13.50), as well as options I hadn’t seen elsewhere such as octopus carpaccio (29,000 pesos, $14.50).
Chef Herrera recommended the bacon-wrapped scallops bathed in butter and garnished with rosemary. Three of them arrived glistening in pork fat.
This is truly an over-the-top appetizer, but it’s worth leaving your calorie-counter at home once and awhile to enjoy food so rich.
As I’ve said before, I’m a fan of flowers used as garnish to brighten up a dish. They also communicate freshness.
The Chef also recommended I try The Burrata (23,000 pesos, $11.50), which is a typical Italian cheese composed of fresh mozzarella and cream.
The outer shell is mozzarella, and the inner core is made up of mozzarella and cream, giving it a softer texture. Burrata means “buttered” in Italian.
Lucia presents their Burrata on a bed of cherry tomatoes, with crispy toast, a touch of sea salt and the aroma of truffles. It was my first time trying Burrata, and it was delicious.
The list of main courses range in price from 21,000 peso ($10.50) for potato gnocchi all the way up to 68,000 pesos ($34) for a 500 gram Angus-certified rib eye steak.
A few other options that caught my eye:
- Penne pasta with Italian chorizo and Genovese-style pesto (25,000 pesos, $12.50)
- Mushroom risotto with the aroma of truffles and parmesan cheese (48,000 pesos, $24)
- Tuna steak with spinach and salted cherry tomatoes (42,000 pesos, $21)
- Chilean seabass with grilled vegetables (55,000 pesos, $27.50)
There’s also a selection of five salads if you’re on a diet, or want something light. Prices range from 18,000 to 25,000 pesos ($9 to $12.50).
I opted for the pasta topped with cream sauce, black truffles and freshly grated parmesan cheese. It was decadent, and easily one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in Medellín.
I’ve been to other restaurants that are using truffle oil, a less expensive alternative to adding the same earthy flavor, but Lucia was the first time I’d actually gotten my taste buds on black truffle shavings.
They may be one of the most expensive edible mushrooms in the world, but I hope we continue to see more restaurants using them here in the future.
I asked Chef Herrera which dessert was most popular, and he confirmed it was the Italian (and my personal) favorite, tiramisu. Without hesitation, I ordered it as my final course for the night.
By this point, I barely had room to spare, but that’s an occupational hazard for those of us who enjoy writing about food and restaurants.
Lucia’s tiramisu is dense and heavy, soaked with espresso, served with a creamy sauce, and topped with powdered sugar and cocoa.
I also took a cappuccino. After a few sips, I was happy to see “Pergamino” appear on the inside of my cup. It’s a sign they’re using beans from one of Medellín’s most beloved coffee brands.
Last but not least, I want to take a moment to share the bar, which serves 19 varieties of whiskey, including everything from Jack Daniels to Glenlivet, all the way up to Johnnie Walker Blue Label (by the bottle only).
For vodka lovers, there are eight options, including Grey Goose, Belvedere and Ketel One. Gin seems to be rising in popularity here, as it has in Spain, and there are seven options, including Bombay Sapphire (my favorite).
Tequila fans will appreciate the selection of Don Julio, Jose Cuervo and Patron. And of course there’s plenty of beer, rum and aguardiente if you prefer the local flavors.
It’s easy to write off hotel-based restaurants, but don’t make the same mistake I did.
Restaurante Lucia exceeded my expectations, and offers diners looking for high quality Italian and Mediterranean food an elegant place to enjoy it in the heart of Medellin’s Zona Rosa.
My dinner was provided compliments of Restaurante Lucia. Special thanks to Chef John Herrera and General Manager Miguel Ángel Vich for their time.