Who in Dallas hasn’t heard of Lucia?
Since opening in 2010, Jennifer and David Uygur’s small Bishop Arts restaurant has garnered national acclaim for its interpretation of rural Italian cuisine through the Uygurs’ deeply personal Texan lens. Many have rhapsodized about the house-made salumi and pasta … and many have bemoaned the difficulty to reserve a table.
If you’re in the latter camp, despair not: You’re in the right spot.
Welcome to From The One Who Keeps The Book, a regular series that aims to answer that most important of questions: How do I get in? The first answer is Resy, of course. But every restaurant manages its tables differently and there are always secret tips, tricks, and shortcuts to be discovered. So here, we go straight to the source to get them for you.
At Lucia, that source would be owner Jennifer Uygur herself, the whiz behind the wine list who’s been welcoming diners to her second home all these years. Here, she explains everything you need to know about Lucia’s new relocation in the old Macellaio space (the sister restaurant that they permanently closed during the pandemic), how to book, and what to expect once you finally get that Resy.
Resy: How many seats are there at Lucia?
Uygur: That’s a loaded question, because with the pandemic, we’re still spacing them out a little bit. In our old space, we only had 14 tables. Right now, there are a total of nine tables inside and we’re seating five of those during the pandemic, and four tables outside. In our new space, we have a bar, and we’ll eventually be able to sit 14 to 16 people, but due to spacing constraints, we’re only seating a handful of those right now. We’re a pretty small restaurant, which has been one of the things that’s always a blessing and a curse [laughs].
When do reservations drop on Resy?
9 a.m. daily. We’re on a 30-day rolling availability. In the pre-pandemic days, we did 60 days out, but just since things are a little uncertain these days, we figured it would be better to do it just 30 days out.
And how quickly do these tend to get booked out?
Usually, within the first few hours of them dropping.
Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins?
Not right now, just because we have so few seats. Pre-pandemic, our bar was never reserved. You didn’t have to have a reservation — you could just walk up. And patio was also first-come, first-serve. But because it’s really important to have every table booked — and because we are lucky enough that we seem to be able to book every table — we are booking every dining area right now. We hope that as things get safer, as our comfort level goes up and people get vaccinated, we’ll be adding more seats, and I expect we’ll start having a few more available for walk-ins.
Is there any other way to snag a seat?
I always tell folks: People cancel all the time. Resy’s Notify feature is one of the best things in the entire world, because it gives you the opportunity to try to find a way in, every day. We actually had a guest that was sitting at the bar last night, he was like, “We got your email that you guys were reopening, and we just jumped in immediately, and I couldn’t get what I wanted, but I hopped on the Notify list and it totally came through!”
So, if someone were to set a Notify for Lucia on Resy, is there a certain day of the week they’d be most likely to get a reservation?
The waitlist is generally longer on a Friday or Saturday, like for most places. But because the Resy system is so awesomely egalitarian, it’s more about if you’re in front of your computer when that Notify email hits. I’d say you have a better chance Tuesday or Wednesday, but it’s luck of the draw. I always tell people to make sure Resy is not blocked on your spam filter.
Any other tips or tricks?
Be flexible. If you’re like, “I can only eat with six people at 7 o’clock on a Saturday,” well yeah, that’s going to be the hardest reservation to ever get at Lucia. But if there are two of you and you’re perfectly happy to come in any time between 6 and 8:30, you have a lot better shot.
Also, it’s always easier to get in with two to four people, because we’re a smaller place. The pasta tastes just as good at 6:30 as it does at 9 p.m. Promise.
I also think Sunday is one of the sleeper hits, because we only used to be open five days a week, and now we’re open on Sundays, so it opens up a whole new day folks can come in and see us.
How long is your Notify list on average?
You know, let me go grab it. So, this Friday, it looks like there are 233 people on the Notify list. And for Saturday, there are 327 people on the Notify list. A Wednesday Notify list… totally more normal, only 69 people there.
Obviously, we hope folks are really excited to have our food — I mean, I’m married to the chef, so I’m wildly biased as to thinking that our food is really good. But also, we’ve been closed, and we are so lucky to have 10 years’ worth of history here in Dallas and really amazing guests who are super dedicated to coming to eat with us. And we’re glad to be back.
“The pasta tastes just as good at 6:30 as it does at 9 p.m. Promise.”
Can you share a good story that’s gone down at the door?
Pre-pandemic, my favorite story is when people come in and explain to me that they’re friends with the owner and that the owner said it would fine for them to come in. And I’m like, well, hello, hi [laughs]. You don’t want to go, “Well, I am the owner,” so you just go, “Oh, I’m so sorry but we only take reservations through Resy.” You want to be gracious. And you kind of have to appreciate that people will go through crazy lengths to come in. I’m thrilled that folks want to come in and I’m thrilled that they’re willing to do anything they can to get in. But I’m just like, nope, please use Resy. All the reservations are done through Resy.
What does it mean to be a regular at Lucia?
For regulars, it means you’ve been coming for years. We know who you are, we know what you like to drink, we know when you’re going to be super excited to see certain things on the menu because we know it’s your favorite. We know which tables you like. Obviously, we want to take care of everybody who comes in, but regulars know how we work, we know how they work, and we always get to look forward to taking extra good care of them, just because we have a long history of being able to do so. And they became regulars because they’re not doing anything differently, they just knew our funny little quirky system and they were okay with it.
I always use the same example: There is a fabulous guest who dined with us our opening night, way back in 2010, and despite the fact that we started out pencil and paper reservations and then went to Resy, these folks have always found a way to dine at the time that they want, the day that they want, because all they do is follow the rules. They tend to dine not on Fridays and Saturdays, and they’re not trying to get an extra-large party. And that’s what I try telling people [laughs]. There’s no “They get to call ahead” or magic number, nothing.
It’s 7 p.m. on a Friday night. Can you set the scene?
Things are getting bustly and busy, and there are really good smells in the air. Everybody’s in a good mood, it’s really starting to feel like the weekend. I love that feeling, that middle of the evening, [where] you start feeling like you’ve got that rhythm. You’re running food, you’re opening wine, you’re greeting folks at the door because we all kind of do everything. We’re all getting into that dance that you do, all coordinated, and the wonderful muscle memory takes over. I love that time. I love 7 o’clock because you look up and it’s 10:30 and you’re like, “How did that happen?”
In your opinion, what’s the best seat in the house?
I think one of the fun places to sit, if you’re a couple, is at the end of the bar, right at the pass. Because you can see my husband and his team, you can see them cooking, and you can see all the dishes going past you and you can be, “Oh, what’s that? What’s that?” The way we have the setup, you can talk with our sous chef, who might be there, slicing salumi. I think it’s a really in-depth experience that gets to speak to what we do, because the kitchen is small and you’re right there. You’re in the thick of it.
What about the best table in the dining room?
That’s a tough call. In the new restaurant, we basically built a little nook that recreates the feel of the first iteration of our restaurant, you know, like the Lucia 1.0 memorial table. And that’s fun just for the novelty of it. And that’s also close to the pass where you can see everything going on in the kitchen. I like being in the thick of things, I like to eat, and I always want to see what’s going on.
Some other folks might like a table that’s tucked far away from everything, far away from the door, in a quieter little corner of the restaurant. And I think it’s fun to have such a small restaurant, we’ve got all these little pockets of tables that can feel so very different.
If you had to pick the best time and day to book a table at Lucia, when would it be?
When my husband and I would go and dine at restaurants, we would go on weekdays, because you do have that sense that there’s a little bit more time that you can spend, a little early off-shoulder time. Same reason you might visit Venice not during high season [laughs]. It’s still a gorgeous experience and nobody is going to be upset about going to Venice at any time, but the benefit is it’s not as crowded and you have a little bit more time to wander and spend. And I think it feels kind of the same way when dining with us.
If you say, “I’m perfectly happy to come at 5 o’clock,” that’s awesome — you’re going to be one of the first people in. If you want way more stories about my studies abroad in Italy, or my and David’s travels, if you want crazy in-depths stories about the vineyards where this wine comes from — the longer version if you will, the director’s cut maybe — you’re more likely to get that earlier in the evening. But not when every table, every bar seat, and ever patio table is set. There’s just not as much time to tell the in-depth.
I find a lot of times, you also have to know the table, too. You can read a table and see if they want to hear from you or just be in a beautiful place and enjoy yummy food and talk with their friends. It’s important that we and our team be able to read that, too.
Let’s say I finally get into Lucia. What can I expect?
You can expect that we’ll be really thrilled to see you. When David and I opened Lucia 10 years ago, we really wanted it to feel like you were coming to have dinner in our home — if our home was a little bit bigger and had a better kitchen. We wanted the service to be relaxed but polished, which is to say you can come in jeans and a t-shirt and just walk in for a casual dinner, or maybe you’re going to the opera house afterwards and you’re dressed to the nines. We want you to know we know our menu backwards and forwards. I have eaten all of the things. I can tell you all of the ingredients and talk about it. I’ve drunk all the wine and I will get as geeky as you want or not. But no matter who you are, we always want you to have a fabulous time.
What are the best things to order for first timers?
You should definitely try the chef’s choice salumi. David and his team cure all of their meats, including prosciutto. All of our bread is baked in-house and our baker mills his own grains on-site and ferments his own sourdough. If we can make it in-house, we do. Salumi is a great place to start. We’re doing a composed plate right now, which is two-year-old prosciutto and house-made ricotta with preserved lemon and a fresh pea salad, if you want something lighter and simpler.
And then we also make all of our pasta in-house daily. That’s always changing, whether it’s a filled pasta or whether we’re doing a baked rigatoni with ‘nduja, toasted breadcrumbs, and a dollop of stracciatella — which is the loveliest bits of the burrata, this cooling, beautiful cheese — on top. All our in-house pasta is a must. And we offer our pastas in sort of a medium size, so even if it’s just two of you, you could order two or three pastas to be able to try different things. Those are the things that you absolutely shouldn’t miss.
What’s your personal favorite dish on the menu?
That is an impossible thing to say. Our menu is not a static menu — we literally can’t print the menu until right before service, because we never know what’s going to get tweaked! But I will always say the pasta. The pasta continues to be my happy place. And it depends on my mood. Because it’s springtime, I love the fava bean agnolotti we have on our menu right now. But last night, it was a little chillier — unseasonably so — and I probably would’ve had the bucatini di grano arso with guanciale. So, you have this toasted grain bucatini with this sauce made with melted onions and bacon. I mean, what’s not to like about that?
What are you most excited about right now?
I’m just thrilled having people back in the dining room. I’m thrilled people want to come back, I’m thrilled that it’s this year and not last year. We’ve seen so many familiar faces and we were able to retain so many core members of our crew, and that was, throughout the pandemic, key to us. I’m truly just happy to be here. Because we didn’t know we were going to be here this time last year. And I’m just so grateful to our guests, and our landlords, and all the forces in the world that came together — and science! — that made it so we can be here and be able to have the privilege to continue to do what we love and be able to make a living doing it.
Boy, that was a little mushy, but I guess that’s totally where we are right now. Just grateful and happy to be here.
Lucia is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.
- Reservations drop 30 days in advance at 9 a.m.
- Still can’t get a table? Resy’s Notify feature is your best friend.
- Parties of two and four have a better shot at getting in.
- If you want to hear some of Jennifer’s stories behind the menu and wine list, book an early 5 p.m. dining slot.
- First timers: Start with some salumi and order as much pasta as you can eat.