Jan Lucca, of Lucca Bar and Grill, has roots in Benicia that go well beyond the opening of his restaurant ten years ago, and farther back even than the establishment of its first iteration in 1997, the Irish pub, O’Leary’s. Lucca’s roots reach back to when his family’s patriarch, Joseph Enos Duvall, arrived in Benicia in 1868 from Azores. His family’s presence here reaches back nearly to the town’s founding. Now, Lucca writes a new chapter for his family, creating what’s become a cornerstone of Benicia’s downtown scene.
In 2009, owner Jan Luccarefocused his vision and creativity when he moved O’Leary’s further east from its location near the waterfront to 439 First St. and transformed it into something bigger and better. First Street was becoming more of a restaurant scene, and Lucca Bar and Grill filled a void with its stylish bar and gastro pub fare.
In addition to its inviting brick and wood indoor dining area with a cheery well-stocked bar, Lucca Bar and Grill, or as it is known colloquially, Lucca’s, recently added an outdoor beer garden. This pleasant, sun-filled and landscaped area is excellent for al fresco dining and is perfect for everyone, including families and well-behaved dogs. The Beer Gardenhosts an Irish band on the first Sunday afternoon of the month. This band hails from Berkeley and plays traditional Irish music. On Thursday and Friday nights and weekend afternoons, other musical groups perform as well. Groups include cover bands, punk bands, country, and blues groups. There is no cover charge. A schedule of performances and times is located on Lucca Bar and Grill’s Facebookpage.
The owners of Lucca are aiming for a menu that could be loosely described as “San Francisco food meets Napa”. Because Lucca Bar and Grill has an outside area and an inside area, there are two menus to choose from. The regular menu offers small plates that include handmade jalapeño poppers, delicious prawns, and other tasty bites. These items are meant to be paired with an interesting cocktail, or other drink. The salads and soups are created on the premises and feature fresh, local vegetables and dressings made on-site. Fresh fish, steaks, pork chops and roasted chicken dishes are paired with smashed potatoes or polenta, baby veggies, and imaginative sauces. Lucca’s also serves three different types of pasta with Bolognese, garlic cream, or marinara sauces. The Beer Garden menu is decidedly more casual with hearty snacks like the delectable Mexican Street Corn with its ancho aioli and crumbly cotija cheese. Freshly baked pretzels and mustard, barbequed shrimp and Kobe dogs also provide distinctive accompaniments to the beer or wine of your choice. The current chef, Allan Manuel changes the menu three to four times a year to reflect the season, but some items, like the superlative fried chicken which is available on Fried Chicken Wednesday Nights, and the downright delicious Lucca Burger remain constants on the menu. Sunday Brunch is also available and features a blend of both menus, in addition to widely beloved brunch classics, and ½ price bottles of wine with a $15 food purchase.
Lucca Bar and Grill offers a full-service bar with an extensive cocktail menu using seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. There are twenty beers on tap to choose from and different beers are rotated in to keep things interesting. A wide variety of bottled beers are also available. For the wine lovers, there are forty-seven different wines in an array of varietals. Of the forty-seven, thirty-seven are available by the glass, and a majority are Californian wines. There is something to suit every taste at Lucca Bar and Grill.
Lucca’s gives back to the community by holding “take over” fundraisers for local schools and youth sports programs. The fundraisers include but are not limited to 50/50 raffles, beer garden fundraisers where the school or sports group gets a percentage of the night’s proceeds, donated gift certificates for silent auctions, catered fundraisers held in other locations, and monetary donations as well. One particularly successful event was Mary Farmer Elementary Night at Lucca’s that raised over $9,000.00 to support the school music program.
Perhaps it is fitting that a citizen with such deep roots in his community has chosen to give back to his home through his thriving business. It is heartwarming that civic pride and respect for tradition is still alive more than a century later through Lucca Bar and Grill. Beyond being simply “a neighborhood bar” Lucca’s truly provides “…a whole lot more.”