Cause for Celebration: Lombardi Cucina Italiana Makes a Weeknight Meal Seem SpecialJun 01, 2022 ● By Lisa Sciortino
I’ve never subscribed to the notion that enjoying a delicious meal at a “fancy” restaurant must be strictly reserved for special-occasion celebrations.
Don’t get me wrong: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, proposals – these and plenty of other milestone events are worthy of a proper fete in the form of a luxurious meal. However, I argue that the close of a particularly taxing Tuesday, for example, can be as good a reason as any to splurge (with your wallet, waistline – or both) on a delicious dinner at a beautifully appointed eatery.
That was the case on a recent weeknight when a friend and I visited Lombardi Cucina Italiana at The Star in Frisco. We’d both had quite stressful a day, respectively, and decided to treat ourselves to a couple of drinks, some excellent food and a decadent dessert. This place, which opened its doors earlier this year, did not disappoint.
With a reservation secured, we were warmly welcomed by the host and someone I later deduced was likely the manager after spotting him visit the tables of other diners throughout the evening. We were shown to a two-top table – adorned with a crisp white tablecloth, a bottle of the house olive oil, drinking glasses and a small stone-filled vase that held a short artificial olive branch – on the far side of the dining room adjacent to a beautiful black baby grand piano that provides the entertainment on other nights.
Adam, our friendly server who we got to know better through brief conversations throughout our meal, approached and asked whether we preferred still or sparkling water (we opted for the former). He returned with a chilled carafe and, while pouring its contents, encouraged us to take our time as we looked over the wine and specialty cocktail menu. It didn’t take long to make our selections: I went with the Spritz All Arancia Rossa, featuring Titos Handmade Vodka, Aperol, blood orange ice and prosecco, and my friend ordered a glass of moscato.
Another member of the wait staff appeared and asked whether we would like some house-made bread, which arrived in a small wooden box. Two thick slices of grilled sourdough and a pair of olive-and-tomato focaccia muffins were accompanied by small cups of a chunky eggplant-and-pepper tapenade and a truffle ricotta spread. The chewy, grilled bread was a proper sturdy vessel for the hearty tapenade. Although the focaccia was perfectly capable of standing on its own, I could not resist schmearing it with the creamy cheese.
Adam returned for the presentation of our beverages. Inside my glass (on the rim of which balanced a large orange slice) was a golf ball-sized cube of frozen blood orange juice. Over that he poured from a short carafe a similarly hued, citrusy liquid that was sweet, bubbly and oh-so refreshing. Meanwhile, my friend declared her wine to be the best moscato she’s ever had.
Dinner menus were delivered and, as we pondered our potential selections, Adam thoughtfully cautioned us to avoid filling up on the delicious bread (more on that later).
A bowl of the Lobster Bisque to start was an easy choice for my friend. I briefly considered the Caesar salad – that is, until I spotted the Buffalo Mozzarella and Pomodoro salad, which is one of my all-time favorites. I tend to order this whenever I encounter it on a menu because, despite its simple ingredients (tomatoes, cheese, basil and olive oil), it can be a tricky one to get right.
The soup and salad were served within minutes of placing our order. The bisque, which boasted sizeable chunks of lobster meat swimming in a light chive-speckled broth, was perfection. The same could be said about my salad, which starred fresh wedges of colorful heirloom tomatoes topped with basil shreds, coarsely cracked black pepper and uber-fresh mozzarella that was delightfully chewy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Lombardi’s version of this classic is solid.
It became clear that we should have heeded Adam’s warning about gorging on the bread, as we were both feeling a bit full at this point. We nixed our plan to share the herb-marinated Wood Grilled Spanish Octopus and moved straight to the main course, ordering a pair of pasta dishes: Bucatini Cacio E Pepe for me; Fettucine Al Limone for my friend.
A brief break in the action provided an opportunity to take in views of the open, airy dining room that exudes understated elegance.
A sizeable bar with ample seating is a focal point of the space that is awash in cream-colored hues and brass accents. Tall wine racks are visible through massive glass walls, and a long refrigerated case displays a variety of whole fish and overflowing bowls of shellfish on ice. It backs up to an open kitchen area where flames occasionally leap from a grill toward shiny copper pots that adorn both sides of the wall above. A half-dozen stunning chandeliers hang above a bank of plush-looking, oversized circular booths that are separated by a row of faux olive trees. The room’s upscale feel is brilliantly juxtaposed by the casual uniforms of the wait staff members who wear tweed-look vests and bowties with dark denim jeans.
Our respective pastas were served in wide-rimmed white bowls. Adam, who provided top-notch service throughout our meal, proceeded to dice the pair of sizeable prawns that rested atop the Fettucine Al Limone, then stirred together the flat noodles, meat, Meyer lemon cream sauce and a generous dollop of black caviar that topped the dish to ensure that my friend enjoyed all of its flavors with each bite. Meanwhile, the Bucatini Cacio E Pepe turned out to be a bit of a surprise as the noodles – heavily sprinkled with coarsely ground toasted peppercorns – were served in a thick Romano cheese fondue sauce so that it closely resembled an upscale version of traditional macaroni and cheese.
After only a few forkfuls of pasta, we concluded that we were entirely too stuffed to finish our entrees. This did not go unnoticed by Adam, who promptly retrieved our plates and, without our having to ask, kindly packed our food for the journey home. He returned the items in handled bags, hanging them on the short rack that had been provided for our handbags.
He also delivered the dessert menu. We must not have been as full as we thought because we immediately decided to share the Souffle, which Adam advised would take 12 minutes to bake. What emerged from the kitchen was a wide white ramekin capped with a tall, golden brown, pillowy cake dome that was lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Using a long spoon, the server dug a semi-circular divot into its center and slowly deposited a generous serving of silky chocolate sauce. The warm, eggy cake was a light-and-airy delight – a fitting finale to an outstanding meal.
The attentive service, delicious dishes and elegant atmosphere at Lombardi Cucina Italiana make any day ending in the letter Y feel like a cause for celebration.
Frisco STYLE Magazine dining reviews are not scheduled with or paid for by the featured restaurant. All reviews are completed for the purpose of helping readers learn about and enjoy local dining options. Is there an area restaurant that you’d like us to review? Email us at [email protected].
Lisa Sciortino is managing editor of Frisco STYLE Magazine.