Lunch at Lucca
This homely restaurant offers family-frienldy Italian fare and a cocktail list well worth plundering.
Kids moaning already about being back at school and the absence of fun in their lives? Fear not, the small market town of Wendover is waiting in the wings as a Muddy good way to kick boredom into touch and entertain your tribe. Wendover Woods is a dependable choice for kids of all ages, with endless protected woodland to scamper around, den-building, a Gruffalo Trail for ankle biters and Go Ape treetop rope-dangling for tweens.
Couple this with a browse of the independent shops in the shadow of Wendover’s little clock tower, fuelled on hot chocolate from Rumseys, before winding-up in Lucca, a friendly little neighbourhood Italian that bats well above any average, run-of-the-mill high-street chain. And if you’re lucky, harassed parents, you might even squeeze in a Prosecco.
Lucca majors on low ceilings, wooden beams, exposed bricks and high-back leather chairs. At its heart is a well stocked, leather-clad bar and we like the smartly zoned layout; turn left up the stairs if you’ve nabbed a babysitter and want a grown-up grissini e grappa affair, turn right into the airy side room if you’re with little kids and need cocooning from the couples while your preschooler launches A Cappella into the Wheels on the Bus. Service is laidback and lovely, whichever camp you fall into. And you can absolutely fall into either; there were couples, families and thirty-somethings all happily ensconced on our visit. Extra Muddy marks awarded for the cheerful art on the walls.
Confident and dependable modern Italian mainstream with genuine character, rather than a soulless chain. I took my six year old along for the ride who dived nose-first into a bowl of conical dough balls while I put paid to a bowl of crisp little lovage pesto arancini.
Mains range from seafood chilli linguine, steak or tomato-baked fregola, to the expected pizza and pasta; my lasagne was on the specials board and didn’t disappoint, featuring a really decent bechamel sauce.
First-rate pizzas boast beautifully chewy and charred bases (‘even better than Prezzo, mum’, said my son, which in young person speak is the equivalent of a bib gourmand). Go veggie with a spinach, red pepper and olive Calzone or full-on meat-and-macho with a Vulcano (pepperoni, ‘nduja, garlic, chilli).
I’d happily come back here with my husband, or a group of gal pals for a glass of bubbles and bowl of olives. There’s a cocktail list of Negronis and Bellinis to explore and – notebooks out – it’s open for brunch, too, if you’re in the area in need of decent morning coffee or eggs florentine.
Absolutely. Muddy bambinos have their own dedicated menu offering every kid’s preferred trio of pizza, pasta and ice cream. Full marks for having some imagination and offering kids’ margaritas topped with optional broccoli, too, as well as the standard cheese and tomato.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Families, gaggles of friends, couples dining a deux, – just choose your seating accordingly.
Not for: Anyone looking for chi chi dining under Michelin stars – it’s more high-street and homely than destination dining.
The damage: Arancini £4, mains start at £11 for a bowl of carbonara, pizzas from £9, kids’ menu £5.50 . Bellini or aperol spritz £6.95 a glass, £21 for a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
Lucca, 20 High Street, Wendover, Aylesbury HP22 6EA. Tel: 01296 696 380. luccarestaurant.co.uk
Words: Emily Kerrigan