The moment you enter Lucas Local Oyster Bar and Woodfire Cookery you notice the wood-fire oven. You smell it and feel its warmth, almost like an embrace. As you’re led to your seat you’ll likely see items from the raw bar being brought to a patron.
The feel of the fire and these glimpses of seafood are a fitting introduction to the new restaurant which opened in late fall and which, as its name implies, features a two-pronged, land-and-sea culinary attack. It also offers some truly elite cocktails.
A complimentary tasting starts with the sea portion of the menu, when one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the Oysters Lucas ($20), arrives. The oysters — delivered to the restaurant daily — topped with pickled shallots and black tobiko caviar, taste as fresh as the sea.
48 S. Main St., Newtown
Hours: Tue. & Wed. 4-10 p.m., Thu. & Fri. noon-10 p.m., Sat. 3-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon. closed.
Equally as intriguing are the Mussels Isabella ($14), deliciously drenched in a sage cream pesto sauce. They made me a fan of mussels, a dish I generally don’t enjoy. Another winner is the Rhode Island clam chowder, a worthy take on this red-broth classic.
On the land side of the menu, the wood-fired oven adds a smoky flavor to various dishes.
“We use oak and fruit woods to stoke and it infuses the food cooked on the grill or in the oven,” says owner Vincent Cappelletti, who named the restaurant after his 11-year-old son.
This is evident in dishes such as the Pork Belly Oh My ($9), house-cured and slow-cooked pork belly topped with caramel and sea salt, resulting in a succulent appetizer. Even salad gets the wood-fired treatment in the grilled Caesar. Caesar dressing is slathered on top of romaine lettuce, which is then grilled and topped with croutons, creating a smoky salad that sounds strange when you attempt to describe it but works wonders when you eat it.
The former director of operations for The Meatball Shop in New York City, Cappelletti is a chef himself, and oversees the menu with chef de cuisine Brett Mitchell.
Lucas Local is located in an unassuming former house on Route 25 in Newtown that was the former home of a frozen yogurt shop. The interior space is far roomier and more intriguing than what you’d expect from the outside. While there are multiple rooms, the place is open and interconnected, with cozy dining corners and a fireside feel helped by design touches such as wood beams from Connecticut tobacco farms. Ample parking is behind the building, not easily visible from the front.
In addition to the food, the cocktail program overseen by Sarah Nuccitelli is a highlight. With the ongoing resurgence of interest in cocktails, having a drinks menu that truly stands out is difficult, but Lucas Local’s truly does. One Bad Apple, made with apple bourbon, ginger beer and apple cider, was a warm drink perfect for fall and winter, and the Sappy Old Fashioned Guy with Taconic Distillery maple bourbon and maple-infused foam from whipped egg whites was a showstopper.
For dessert, Cappelletti says they like to keep it simple with the main focus being ice cream from Newtown’s acclaimed Ferris Acres Creamery. Of the many desserts I have consumed while on the job for this magazine, these rank among the best: after all, what’s better than great ice cream?
In the summer, Cappelletti hopes to plant a garden behind the restaurant and continue to incorporate local ingredients. Currently, Lucas Local is open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner, with lunch on Thursday and Friday, and brunch on Sunday.
This article appeared in the February 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine.
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