A return to Lucilla: superb food, drink and service

by Tallahassee Table
The locally owned restaurant emanates a casually intimate atmosphere

“What took me so long to go back to Lucilla?” That’s the question our friend, Kati Schardl, posed after our recent dinner at the charming restaurant. My husband and I had to agree.

Lucilla, owned by Joe Richardson and partner Lara Hooper, is the whole package. As Kati said: “Great service, superb food, excellent wine list – it’s all there.”

My husband and I had been to Lucilla for takeout during much of the pandemic but we hadn’t dined in. We’ve missed the cozy atmosphere and genteel service, a few of the reasons we love this cozy nook, with from-scratch cuisine from two dedicated restaurateurs.

A few choices from Lucilla’s thoughtful wine list. Tallahassee Table

Joe and Lara met when they both worked at Andrew’s 228, where Joe was the chef and Lara was the head server. Their relationship blossomed, and so did their dream of opening a restaurant. You could call it a labor of love, right down to the name of the place – taken from Lara’s middle name (also the name of both Hooper’s mother and grandmother.)

Joe has called his cuisine upscale American comfort food with Creole and Southern accents. He’s a native of Tallahassee, though he started out working in restaurants in New Orleans. Lara is from a small North Carolina town called Hudson.

Kati raved about her meal, which she ordered from the list of small plates. “The deconstructed vol-au-vent was perfect – the cream sauce was not too rich, the mushrooms and seafood perfectly cooked, the puff pastry round crisp little pillows of yumminess,” said Kati. “The serving size was just right for a starter accompanied by a fresh lightly dressed Caesar salad – also an ideal size – too often starter salads are way too big and with a Caesar you end up with a gigantic portion of lettuce that’s impossible to finish.

The fried oysters were so good that my husband ordered a second round. Photo Tallahassee Table

My husband decided on a Caesar with an order of fried oysters, plated with a perky Creole aioli-datil pepper cocktail sauce and a small cup of champagne mignonette, a perfect accompaniment to oysters. He liked the oysters so much, he ordered a second round.

I don’t often pick salmon in restaurants because I tend to be disappointed, but not so with Lucilla’s rendition. The juicy slab of fish, with a maple miso glaze, had the perfect balance of salt and sweetness, the coral flesh buttery tender. It came with sides of crisp fingerling potatoes and sauteed spinach.

The grouper St. Charles is one of our long-time favorites at Lucilla. Photo Tallahassee Table

We’ll have to be back soon for favorites like pimento cheese fritters, the crab cakes, Joe’s Grouper St. Charles and Green Hill chicken.

We were too full for dessert though choices like croissant bread pudding, lemon pepita pound cake and hummingbird cake were certainly tempting. The salted butterscotch pots de crème has always been a favorite – and there’s a dark chocolate version.

The new patio at Lucilla. Photo credit: Lucilla

The restaurant has a cozy, casual atmosphere and retro decor, like its black-and-white checkered floor. There’s a new outdoor patio as well.

Like so many restaurateurs, Lucilla has suffered during the pandemic but we’re happy to see the restaurant is still thriving and is as delightful as ever.

Lucilla is at 1241 E. Lafayette St.; 850-900-5117. See a sample of the menu and spirits list at lucillatallahassee.com/menus

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