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Soft, yellow walls frame Tuscany’s interior, and there is an exposed ceiling overhead. (Michael Cooper / American Press)<br>

Soft, yellow walls frame Tuscany’s interior, and there is an exposed ceiling overhead. (Michael Cooper / American Press)

Tuscany offers taste of Italy in Lake Charles

Last Modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 7:31 PM

By Ken Stickney / American Press

If you’re looking for Tuscany, it’s a triangle-shaped region in northwestern Italy located about thigh-high on the boot.

If you’re looking for a good Italian lunch served quickly, Tuscany is a cozy treasure of a restaurant located on Ryan Street in Lake Charles.

The former, homeland of composer Giacomo Puccini and tenor Andrea Bocelli, will serve your needs for listening pleasure. The latter, located in the former home of Cedars, a Lebanese restaurant, will serve your dining needs in much less time than it takes to travel to Italy, and at a fraction of the cost.

We rolled into Tuscany Italian Restaurant at the launch of lunch hour, bypassed the appetizers and went straight to the lunch menu, which is served Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We meant business.

I selected the eggplant parmigiana, which is my custom at any Italian spot. Colleagues Mike Cooper and Laura Heller opted for the chicken fetuccine alfredo and the manicotti, respectively.

Our first taste, though, went to the fresh baked rolls brought to our table. Cooper ordered a bowl of alfredo sauce for dipping; I thought it an odd choice, but Cooper never complains when I put my elbows on the table, so I let it pass. Our top-notch waitress, Kadi — there may have been a heart over the “i” — noted that the rolls were baked daily on site. They were fresh and delicious.

Our salads were fresh, ample and flavorful. I particularly enjoyed my dressing, a tomato basil vinegarette, according to Kadi.

My eggplant parm was spectacular, a wonder in appearance. The marinara sauce was sweet and delightful. If I were a more strategic eater, I’d have saved a portion for supper; instead, I downed it all in a single sitting. I am not ashamed.

Laura found her manicotti “bubbling hot, but very tasty.” She said it had “just the right amount of cheese and sauce.”

Cooper said the chicken itself in his chicken fetuccine alfredo came in a “healthy portion, with plenty of meat.” The chicken, apart from the sauce, had its own flavor, he said.

The sauce, he said, was creamy but not too rich. The taste, he said, indicated that it was Tuscany’s own special recipe.

“The noodles were great, not overcooked or undercooked. Just right,” he said.

For dessert, I chose the plain cannoli, but there was nothing plain about it. It was sweet and sizable and fresh, right to the bite.

Cooper and Laura shared the strawberry cheesecake, which Laura described as “delectable.”

“I could have eaten another piece, but I had no room left,” she said. (Too bad for her; I ate what she left of her manicotti.)

Cooper said the cheesecake was fresh and creamy and noted that the “crust crumbled when it needed to.” Good thing, that.

Total ticket, sans tip, was $37.06.

The restaurant site itself is a box, but the soft yellow walls, exposed ceiling and red furniture gave it a clean, neat appearance. Scenes from Italy adorn the walls, and add some cheer and atmosphere. Chianti bottles helped decorate the entrance way; chianti is a Tuscany red wine. And our server, Kadi, was the perfect ambassador for this restaurant: knowledgeable about the menu, cheerful and helpful.

Here’s my Tuscany Italian Restaurant lunchtime whine: Bring me more.

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