In case you hadn’t noticed, Garden City is in the midst of a renaissance.
It all started a few years ago when a profusion of craft breweries and winery tasting rooms started popping up along an industrial stretch of Chinden Boulevard.
There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air about what’s going on in Boise’s closest municipality.
Adding to this vibrancy is the recently built Waterhouse Row, a collection of attractive townhouses just across the footbridge from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Whitewater Park. This is where you will find Caffe Luciano’s. The Mediterranean-driven restaurant and bar debuted there in December right off The Greenbelt on the Garden City-side of the river.
Run by the same folks who own and operate Luciano’s Italian Restaurant on Orchard Street, the eatery keeps the focus on lighter bites with a menu that features appetizers, big salads, sandwiches, pizza and a few popular pasta items from the flagship Luciano’s. It also serves breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon on weekends.
Keep in mind, Caffe Luciano’s doesn’t have a parking lot, but diners can park along the road near Waterhouse Row. Maybe the incentive here is to ride a bike. Cruise on over on your cruiser and quaff a pint of craft brew while nibbling on bruschetta. Or you can carbo-load before a day of strenuous riding on your tricked-out road bike. Either way, the restaurant is a bike-friendly establishment that has a rack out front so you can lock your ride. (They might want to think about getting another rack. This place is already popular with bicyclists.)
The dining room is bright and open thanks to a multitude of windows, some of which roll up so the inside and outside can become one. Plus, once the weather warms up the wraparound patio will be a hit with those looking for a front-row seat to all the action along the Boise River.
For starters, the stuffed mushrooms ($9.50) are not a bad way to go. You probably won’t be blown away by this appetizer, yet the eight or so button mushrooms — brimming with pepper-spiked sausage, garlic and aromatic fresh herbs — scream comfort, thanks to the creamy Alfredo sauce and mozzarella that bubbles brown on top.
Bruschetta pomodoro ($8) is another noteworthy choice for those who like to share. A small bowl of diced tomatoes comes mingled with good olive oil, flecks of fresh basil, garlic and just the right amount of balsamic vinegar, finished with shavings of pungent Pecorino cheese. The bruschetta topping gets dished up with an adjacent pile of crostini rounds, made from Acme Bakeshop focaccia bread.
As for salads, diners will find a handful of fresh offerings designed with healthy eating in mind.
The smoked chicken salad ($11), which easily feeds two, is served in a big bowl filled with mixed greens, roasted crimson and golden beets and crunchy candied walnuts, topped with tender slices of house-smoked chicken breast. It’s a good salad, but the underlying greens were tossed with too much blue cheese vinaigrette for my liking, leaving them weighed down and dripping with dressing.
Caffe Luciano’s also serves Mediterranean-influenced sandwiches and flatbread under the “Hand Helds” header. Go for a panini ($10) with shaved prosciutto, mozzarella, jammy sun-dried tomato pesto and thin planks of marinated eggplant, melded together after being hot-pressed between slices of Acme Bakeshop bread. The sandwich came with a house salad that was also dressed with an excessive amount of vinaigrette.
The lasagna ($14) might remind you of a Sunday night dinner at your Italian grandma’s house. Comfort and familiarity are the operative words with this entrée. A boat-shaped crock contains a baked stratum of soft noodles, seasoned ground beef, Italian sausage and three gooey cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella and provolone), bathed in chunky marinara that smacks of garlic and basil. It comes with slices of toasted bread for soaking up the fragrant tomato sauce.
You can also get New York-style pizza (whole pies and by the slice), including a classic, thin-crusted Margherita ($3/slice) topped with red sauce, mozzarella, slices of Roma tomato and basil chiffonade.
Craving something sweet? Try the tiramisu ($8). This dessert follows the traditional course with coffee-and-liqueur-soaked ladyfingers layered with rich and creamy mascarpone and plenty of chocolate.
All in all, Caffe Luciano’s, like its sister restaurant, puts out consistently good American-Italian food, and service is brisk and friendly. It’s surely a welcome addition to Garden City’s dining scene.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 3588 N. Prospect Way, Garden City
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Menu price range: shared plates, salads and sandwiches $8-$19; entrées and pizzas $10-$25.
Libation situation: The place pours around a dozen beers on tap, some of which hail from Boise-area craft breweries. The small wine list favors Italian labels, but you will also find some from California and select wines from nearby Telaya Wine Company and Washington’s Proletariat Wine Company.
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: December 2017