A good chef lays the foundation for an insightful and memorable meal, a great chef lays the memory of the meal so deep in your soul, you dream about each morsel. I have had the pleasure of dining with many chefs, but every now and then one comes shinning through with a skill set in the kitchen that makes me want to dine with them every day. My current obsession is with Luciano Bardinelli of La Locanda on Garden Street in San Luis Obispo. I was told there was a new eatery with a classic Northern Italian flair, but I was more than impressed and have eaten there four times so far.
The bistro has just ten tables with white table clothes, lacey curtains and a serious wine rack. The chef’s daughter warmly greeted us and we mused with the unique and authentic wine list. We ordered a bottle of Terrabianca 2009 Camipaccio Toscana that paired perfectly with our first course a Caprese salad, with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomato and basil. The secret to Caprese is the portions and these were impeccable. Next we had the Involtini di Melanzane which was a brilliant thinly sliced eggplant rolled with Gruyere cheese and ham. Surprising and delightful, I had already begun to fall in love with this chef. Gary started with the Mousse di Cioccolato, which we all inhaled as the creamy cocoa-ness of this fancy pudding nearly floored us.
Our main courses were a delight and we all shared. I had the Spaghettini Carbonara, which is my favorite Italian dish, but rarely done correctly, and here it was. Thin spaghetti noodles are tossed with raw eggs (this makes the sauce) then they are tossed with Prosciutto pieces fried in garlic and olive oil, then topped with Parmesan Reggiano cheese. This is what heaven tastes like, simple yet elegant. I need to mention that all the pasta’s are made in house, but pasta done correctly is a rare indulgence. My companions had the lasagna that was made with a béchamel sauce instead of cheese and was said to be the signature dish. It was light and flavorful and an instant favorite. Gary had the Risotto con funghi di stagione rice with savory seasonal mushrooms swimming in perfectly done Arborio rice. The house made focaccia bread was great for dipping and savoring each sauce. We finished with Homemade Tiramisu and Pera al vino rosso, pears with wine. Both were authentic and amazing.
Gary and I returned for a romantic luncheon for our anniversary and shared a bottle of Italian Prosecco and a Prosciutto and Melon start. Moon slivers of melon layered with a perfect prosciutto with a generous virgin olive oil pool made this dish brilliant. We shared our meal “Lady and The Tramp” style as we inhaled yet another perfect feast. Gary had the Wild Corvina Sea Bass with butter and lemon sauce, Haricots verts, capers and mushrooms, while I started with a Caesar salad. My salad was chopped and flawlessly portioned with all the ingredients. We shared and took home a Margherita pizza that was the most outstanding pie we have eaten here in the states. Chef Luciano came to sit and talk with us and when he heard it was our anniversary, he jumped up and brought us a Torta al Limone, an impeccable Lemon Tart. Gary got so excited, he spilled his bubbly. I dream about this chef, these dishes and can’t wait to try everything on the menu.
La Locanda features authentic Northern Italian cuisine, old world charm and a wonderful wine list. This is the perfect restaurant for a romantic meal or an amazing lunch. La Locanda recommends making reservations by calling (805) 548-1750. They are open
Tuesday thru Sunday for lunch from 11:30 to 2:00pm and dinners from 5:00pm to 9:00pm, they are closed Monday. They are located at 1137 Garden Street in San Luis Obispo.