Authentic Italian in Savannah – Leoci’s Trattoria

Recommended: Absolutely.

As all little hole-in-the-wall eateries, Leoci’s Trattoria is a bit off the beaten foodie path, and somewhat hidden to passers-by. But the reward for those who catch a glimpse of the twinkle lights adorning the back patio or the simple, understated sign out front is a delicious slice of authentic Italian cuisine.

I used to be skeptical of Leoci’s because after all, it took the place of one of my favorite restaurants in Savannah – Sweet Leaf Cafe. But I couldn’t help but be attracted to a place with a bocce ball court and a stunning outdoor patio, complete with white tenting and twinkle lights where once was a rubbled BBQ pit. The simple white linen table cloths and black cloth napkins add to the simple sophistication with which this place emanates. Inside, you feel like you are in a quaint, classy cafe; outside, it’s as though you’re at a charming European bistro.

The atmosphere is backed up by attentive service and superb food. The breads and pastas are made in-house, so you know you’re getting a genuine taste of Italy. The cuisine is a combination between authentic Italian classics and inspired Mediterranean cuisine. So what’s on the menu?

The mussels served in a tomato-based broth are a perfect appetizer, and they are masterfully cooked to perfection. I’m quite picky about mussels, both in my own cooking and at restaurants, and these ones achieve the perfect balance of texture and flavor. The broth is also a delicious dipping sauce for bread. If you’re not a fan of tomatoes, the bread is served with olive oil and an aged vinegar which a perfect balance of sweet and tangy.

While most dishes come with the option of ordering a small or large portion, I chose the mushroom lasagna which is only available as a large portion. No matter, it made fantastic leftovers. Not eating meat, I don’t often get to order lasagna at restaurants, especially since I’m not a fan of tomato sauces with vegetables. This lasagna with light and almost crisp, layering pasta, mushrooms, cheese and spinach in an effortless combination. Topped with a cream-based sauce and garnished with a chive, the presentation was almost as delectable as the taste.

My only complaint would have to be the side caesar salad I ordered. A side salad here is $6.50, which I wouldn’t if there was anything worth that much in the salad. It only consisted of a few pieces of lettuce, two or three croutons (which I believe were homemade), and an overly tangy caesar dressing. In fact, it barely tasted like caesar; it was more vinegary than I’ve ever tasted. However, if my only complaint is a small, pricey salad with bad dressing, well, I’ll cut my losses and steer clear of ordering salads here.

Overall, this restaurant is one of my favorite places to eat. Because they offer small and large portions for most of their dishes, it’s possible to have an affordable and delicious lunch – just don’t order a side caesar salad. If you want to bring a larger group, expect to sit outside since the inside is rather small. Otherwise, this is an excellent restaurant for either a romantic evening out or for a special occasion.

Overall Rating: 9/10


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