The story of Luci Ancora & Ristorante Luci is a romantic one, as all good Italian stories are. With a passion for food and wine, cultivated by the experience of living in and around Naples, Italy, the Smith Family began their coincidental culinary and viticulture education when Kennedy was in office. It was the 1960’s. With an opportunity to live abroad, newlywed Al & Lucille Smith packed their things and moved to Via Petrarca, Naples, Italy, a quaint neighborhood just outside the bustling city center overlooking the scenic Bay of Naples.
For 11 years, Al & Lucille spent their time raising their growing family of six children and immersing themselves in the Italian way of life. Enjoying friends and family amidst seasonal cuisine and a veritable selection of wine – these times around the table would be the inspiration for what would later become the Luci Restaurants.
Upon returning to Saint Paul and eventually retiring, the Smith Family desired to recapture what they had experienced during those years in Naples. After months of transforming what was previously “The Club” bar, narrowing down menu selections, and finalizing the wine list, Ristorante Luci was ready to offer fresh pastas, wild, line caught fish, and one of the first Tasting Menus in Saint Paul. Complete with house made bread and desserts, Ristorante Luci soon garnered local attention and loyalty, with admiration from unexpected places.
As demand exceeded supply of the 40 seat Cucina, the Smith Family saw an opportunity to offer more to Saint Paul. By coincidence, the property kiddy corner from Ristorante Luci was for sale. Due to space limitations of Ristorante Luci’s building, expansion was not an option at the 470 Cleveland Ave location. The Smith Family broke ground in 1996 for what would become Luci Ancora, an Encore of Ristorante Luci.
Built from the ground up, the second space nearly tripled the kitchen, more than doubled the dining room, and offered an open atmosphere that contrasted the cozy space some had grown to love at Ristorante Luci. With large picture windows framing the grassy knoll of St. Catherine’s University, guests could now enjoy dinner with family and friends up to 80 at a time near a wood burning fireplace.
As of January 1, 2017 and after nearly 30 years, the family decided to end the lease at 470 Cleveland Avenue South, the home of Ristorante Luci. The Luci concept carries on today at Luci Ancora, 2060 Randolph Avenue, now entering it’s 19th year in business. With the 2 restaurants merged into 1, all the passion and energy is focused at Luci Ancora.
Today, Luci Ancora offers fresh, seasonal Italian influenced cuisine that showcases handmade pastas, local produce and sustainably raised and harvested fish, seafoods, and specialty cuts of meat.