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The decadence of brunch

Luciano’s of Chicago offers twists on regular fare
  • The berry bread pudding with vanilla creme anglaise at Luciano’s of Chicago brunch.

  • The zeppole at Luciano’s of Chicago with a cappuccino. Zeppole are Italian donuts dusted with cinnamon sugar with caramel drizzle.

  • The grilled eight-ounce New York strip steak with roasted red skin potatoes and grilled tomato brunch offering at Luciano’s of Chicago restaurant.

  • The short rib hash topped with poached eggs, served at brunch at Luciano’s of Chicago restaurant. PHOTOS: SHAVAUGHN MOSS

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Jan 07, 2017

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Brunch — it’s a meal usually taken late in the morning that combines a late breakfast and an early lunch, consisting of decadent twists on regular meal options. For many people, the weekend just isn’t complete without brunch.

Recognizing this, Luciano’s of Chicago (LOC) restaurant, where they offer a taste of Tuscan fare, introduced Sunday brunch to its line-up last year. It was an instant hit, and has become increasingly popular due to its many offerings, as I discovered recently. Besides, what’s not to love about brunch, especially an LOC brunch offering?

It was difficult making a determination about what to indulge in.

After vacillating between the beef short rib hash, which comes topped with two fried or poached eggs, and the lobster omelet, which features Bahamian lobster with celery, sweet onions, tarragon and ricotta cheese, I went with the hash. To be honest, I can’t resist a hash with poached eggs if it’s done well. I love breaking into the yolks because they add a luscious, silky addition to the hash that is to die for.

Now, I’ve had some bad hashes in my time. You know the ones where everything is chopped so small that it's like a big, mushy pile, so much so that you don’t even want to taste it. At LOC, that was not the case. The waiter delivered a warm plate with big chunks of short rib, potatoes and veggies that you can sink your teeth into. The dish was seasoned perfectly, and breaking into the yolks and adding them the mix was a heavenly and filling indulgence.

Even though I was stuffed at the hefty portion of short rib hash, I just had to indulge in dessert after discovering zeppole on the dessert menu. Zeppole is an Italian delicacy. The Italian pastry consists of a deep-fried dough ball. The donut, or fritter, is usually topped with powdered sugar, and may be filled with custard, jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream or a butter and honey mixture. The consistency ranges from light and puffy to bread or pasta like. They are served warm. At LOC they serve their zeppole dusted with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with caramel.

Suffice it to say I was only able to nibble on one of the zeppole, which I enjoyed with a cappuccino, capping off the meal perfectly in my opinion.

My husband, who also considered the short rib hash, decided on the New York strip steak. He was a little jealous when he saw my plate, but was pleased with his steak, which was served with roasted red skin potatoes and grilled tomato. He opted for the berry bread pudding with vanilla crème anglaise for his end-of-meal indulgence.

The hefty portion brunch sizes served at LOC’s Sunday brunch meant that I did not have to cook Sunday dinner. We were too stuffed to even think about eating anything else for the day. A light salad was all we needed.

I’m already looking forward to my next LOC brunch outing. The menu has so many other items that I want to explore, like the spicy buttermilk fried chicken served on cheesy grits, or the crispy waffle drizzled with maple syrup and country gravy. Other menu highlights include the smoked salmon eggs benedict on toasted English muffin with hollandaise sauce; cinnamon apple French toast dusted with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup; double chocolate waffle with decadent marshmallow sauce and berries; southwest omelet with spicy chorizo, tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, cilantro and Jack cheese; the shrimp and grits, which consists of shrimp and spicy chorizo over cheesy grits; and the penne di Lucca, that is Italian sausage, spinach, roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes tossed with garlic, olive oil and herbs.

Crispy bacon, sausage links, hash brown potatoes, a baby greens salad, cheesy grits, sautéed spinach, grilled asparagus and sautéed mushrooms can be had for sides, for those who like a little extra.

I don’t know if I’d ever get anything other than the zeppole when I return, but LOC also offers a warm apple pecan strudel served with cinnamon whipped cream, zocatto (chocolate tiramisu) and a fresh seasonal fruit salad among its desserts.

LOC’s brunch is served between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Prices are a la carte and range between $4 and $19.95.

And for the history buff, I simply had to find out the origin of brunch. I learned that brunch traces back to the upper class British tradition of hunting luncheons. Men and women gathered for decadent early lunches, complete with a multitude of meats, egg dishes and plenty of adult beverages, although the meal back then was a far cry from the meal that is enjoyed today.

The word “brunch” made its first appearance in an 1895 article by author Guy Beringer. His piece which appeared in a short-lived British publication “Hunter’s Weekly” advocated the physical and emotional benefits of a convivial meal consisting of lighter fare to replace the traditional heavy, late Sunday meals common in the United Kingdom. When the popular British periodical “Punch” reprinted Beringer’s article the following year, the concept spread. By the late 1920s, it had reached American shores.

The first American city known for brunches was Chicago. Sunday brunch especially became increasingly popular after World War II. Church attendance had dropped significantly in the post-war years, and folks were looking for something to do with the time that previously would have been spent in the pews. Sunday mornings and afternoons became a time to relax, spend time with friends and maybe have a mimosa or two. And the advent of convenience foods during this period only helped brunch dominate the Sunday table.


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