Replacing a local restaurant institution

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Lucca Kitchen & Cocktails opens today at 425 Merchants Road, the former location of Remington’s.
(Photos courtesy of Chris Clemens)

It’s rarely welcome news to learn that a local institution will close. As a resident of the North Winton Village, it wasn’t easy to hear that Remington’s was shuttering service after three decades. That is, until I heard about what would take its place.

In June 2019, Jennifer and Matt Gervasi, the husband-and-wife team behind Lucca Wood Fire Bistro in Victor, announced plans to take over the space at 425 Merchants Road.

Chris Clemens

Social media instantly buzzed with concerns that another pizza joint would be opening too close to Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro. Except, that was before news broke that this venture would be different than the Lucca we know in Victor.

Lucca Kitchen & Cocktails aims to provide an opportunity for the couple to take everything they love about Lucca Wood Fire Bistro, and combine it with entirely new elements.

This summer, while getting a preview of the buildout for Lucca Kitchen & Cocktails, Matt told me, “I’ve done pizza for years! I love it, but I’m really excited to do some new things. There’s so much more food I want to be able to share with people.”

They’ve been renovating the space in preparation for the grand opening today.

Just like home

The classic dark-wood bar is the same one you sat at when you were at Remington’s, but it’s got a makeover to match the revitalized dining room. It will be a familiar, homey feel for those who felt at ease in Remington’s, but like a home where Ty Pennington showed up and put on a remodel magic show.

The dark wood tones of the new dining room sketch out a casual, easy atmosphere, but classy punctuations dress the place up. The wall art blends a careful balance of vintage and modern scenes from around Rochester, emphasizing the celebration of hometown pride. It’s immediately obvious that the character of Lucca is intended to be a comfortable, familiar space, but with an updated manifestation of the new spirit that will take over the corner at Merchants and Akron.

That appreciation of all-things-local carries over from the buildout to the menu.

A portrait of local

Winstead is one of the dead-end streets on the east side of Winton Road, but now it’s also a hearty rigatoni dish dressed in an asiago cream sauce at Lucca. Allandale is a one-block avenue connecting Humboldt Street and Atlantic Avenue, but now it also describes an ample entree of grilled shrimp in a parmesan risotto.

On the brunch menu for Sundays, the Lockwood describes the challah french toast, and takes its name from the short residential street that connects McKinley Street to Grand Avenue.

Both the dinner and brunch menus read like a local geography lesson that map out a connected community of Italian and American standards.

During this weekend’s soft opening, Jennifer said, “We love Rochester, and we want to celebrate everything we love about it. Lucca (Victor) is like home for us because there’s a great connection between our staff and customers. That’s exactly what we want to do here, too.”

Kitchen and cocktails

The cocktail side of Lucca will reflect the same philosophy the duo has built into the kitchen’s menu.

There are standard reliables like Gimlets and Dirty Martinis, but the bar staff will have ample opportunity to be creative. 

“They’re the creative ones, so every couple of months we are going to have the bartenders make us their favorite drinks and we’ll be putting them on the menu,” Jennifer says.

As a non-drinker, I was super pleased to see a Mocktail listed as an official menu item, which is rare for restaurants to feature. During my visits I ended up having three different mocktails, each one with a different creative flair from the last.

Wine aficionados will find a mixture of different offerings, including a handful of Finger Lakes wines to ensure that even some libations will be locale. Beer lovers can choose from both name brands and local breweries.

It’s never easy to learn that a local institution will close, but when it’s replaced by locals who love food, family and Rochester as much as the Gervasis seem to, it’s easy to have hope that the future of neighborhood joints is bright.

Lucca Kitchen & Cocktails will begin with a dinner menu Tuesday through Saturday, and a brunch menu each Sunday. For more, visit their website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Chris Clemens is the creator and publisher of Exploring Upstate, a blog about the discovery of local history, culture, travel and all that makes Upstate New York the perfect place to explore.

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