• May 2015
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Cathy Pavlos

Executive chef/co-owner, LUCCA

Cathy Pavlos is the driving force behind one of Orange County’s most unique and dynamic eateries, LUCCA. The Irvine-based restaurant is known for its one-of-a-kind menu, reminiscent of a Euro bistro, complete with an exquisite wine bar, wide selection of cheese and charcuterie offerings, and seasonal tasting menus.

Now, Co-Owners Cathy Pavlos and her husband Elliott have been thinking about opening a new concept in Orange County. Few know of this idea, which has been brewing in the minds of this husband-and-wife team, but they will reveal all during their upcoming research trip to New York City.

Read her thoughts on the adventure below.

Pavlos grew up in a typical close-knit, large Italian family. Most of her childhood memories have to do with cooking with her grandmother for Sunday gatherings. Though educated as an architect and an art historian, and despite more than 20 years in architectural practice and serving as a college professor, Pavlos has always been drawn back to cooking. Having traveled to Italy every year for the past 30 years, Pavlos has been developing a collection of remarkable recipes, inspired by her grandmother’s cooking and her favorite restaurants in Italy, France and Greece. These recipes – seen on LUCCA’s menu – have been slightly modified to build on the flavors of California with its emphasis on the use of healthy and high-quality ingredients, such as certified Angus beef, free-range turkey, hormone-free chicken, wild salmon and locally grown organic produce.

With Elliott Pavlos as general manager/sommelier/co-owner, Cathy Pavlos oversees the kitchen and ever-changing menu. His passion for fine wines shows in the restaurant’s unique wine list, which features more than 30 wines by the glass, with a choice of a 2.5-ounce or 6-ounce pour of wine, encouraging guests to be adventurous with their selections.

LUCCA has been referred to as “an urban concept in a suburban center” with many facets – it is an inviting space where casual friendliness quickly meets a few chic big-city elements, including cozy tables on a large banquette, a gas-burning fireplace and sensual curved features. Since opening its doors in 2005, the Pavlos have led LUCCA to become among the best in the region for its one-of-a-kind dining, off-site catering and wine bar.

LUCCA is located at 6507 Quail Hill Pkwy. in the Quail Hill Village Center. For more information or to make reservations, call 949.725.1773, visit luccacafe.com or facebook.com/luccacafe.
OFF TO THE BIG APPLE (and ready to take a big bite)

Many of you followed us (online) as Elliott and I packed our things in Irvine and headed to the Italian countryside for an early summer “adventure” in Tuscany. Well, you’ll be happy to know that the natives are restless and we’ll be embarking on a little fall research trip next week.

This time, we’ve decided to stay in the country, but with so many options and some light debating, we settled on New York City!

Everyone knows that New York is an eating town, but we’re going to prove it – we’ve rented an apartment on 20th Street off Park Avenue. We are about a stone's throw from the Toy Building, home to Mario Batali's new eating adventure, Eataly. If you haven’t read about it yet, it’s a crazy 50,000-square-foot Italian Whole Foods-meets-FAO Schwartz!!

Of course, everyone’s invited to come along as I visit new food sources, most of which have websites that allow the public to place orders! Who knows, if we generate enough interest, it may be a possible Weekend in New York trip with Laguna Culinary Arts.

Truth be told, we’ll also be conducting some not-so-top-secret research for a possible new concept in Orange County – yes, the cat’s out of the bag, but we’re not telling you what our idea is for a concept (probably because we haven’t finished defining it ourselves)! Now, if you’re sharp, you’ll pick up on it from the list of places we have on our “must-do” list:

• Visit one of the original farm-to-table restaurants in New York
• Check out pizza concepts in Brooklyn – well, shucks, we gotta eat pizza!
• Tour the Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus – after all, it is considered the mother of culinary schools
• Visit the Cake Boss in Hoboken, N.J. – a MUST for Elliott
• Try to explore as much of Mario Batali's Eataly as possible
• Visit the best charcuterie shops in the city
• Check out Chelsea Market and other notable shopping destinations

The possibilities are endless, and when all’s said and done, we should have a good ol’ culinary time!