Trailer-Made: Lucky's Puccias
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 10.26.11
Blame the bread — the bread they bake at Lucky’s Puccias in a wood-fired oven. The bread that behaves like a Neapolitan pizza crust, with a thin, crisp outer shell painted with the colors of toast at the tipping point just before it chars. The bread with a labyrinth of vaulted spaces inside, soft and fleeting as a prayer. Sandwich bread that could make you believe in sandwiches again.
I blame the bread for all the fuss I’ve heard about the Lucky’s Puccias trailer, including a Twitter post from my friend and Statesman restaurant/film/everything critic Matthew Odam. He said an Italian actress at the Austin Film Festival told him Lucky’s was the only legit Italian in town. If true, then Italy has my sympathies.
The man in line ahead of me ordered “the Special,” and the crew knew exactly what he meant: Hot pastrami with melted mozzarella, provolone and Gorgonzola cheeses, roasted red pepper and mushrooms. The selling point is pastrami with a brine-and-pepper kick and ideal marbling, with no stringy edges. But the heat of chipotle mayo stepped all over what should have been layers of flavor. And not even the bread could pull me fully away from the idea that I was paying $9.25 for a toasted sandwich.
As trailer prices creep ever upward, I’ll say that at almost $10, I’d have liked something on the side: chips, slaw, cold pasta, something keep me from doing value algorithms in my head.
The same chipotle mayo overwhelmed an otherwise delicate sandwich called Lucky’s Puccia, with a good amount of paper-thin prosciutto with the flavor of fatty caramel, playing off arugula and fresh mozzarella. Why bother dressing the sandwich with olive oil if you kill it with chipotle mayo? Lose the heat, and you’ve got an Italian wonder-deli of a sandwich. Knowing how much prosciutto costs at the meat counter, the $9.25 price tag was easier to swallow.
Lucky’s will make any of its puccias in smaller versions for $4.75, a price that should be a reasonable way to become acquainted with the place. The small size suited the limited charms of the Rustica, an assembly of field greens, red pepper, rubbery mushrooms, onions and mozzarella. None of the vegetables were grilled like the menu said, making an artichoke pesto the only thing worth talking about. This is not at all a sandwich I’d pay $8.50 for at full size. Even at half size, I wish I still had the $4.75 in my pocket. That same amount seemed right for a well-composed sandwich of peppered roast beef, fresh mozzarella and arugula with some of its own pepper notes to play.
My experience left me wondering why I’ve heard so much about Lucky’s, in such breathless absolutes. Is it because they speak Italian to each other in the kitchen? Or because they have cute little cans of San Pellegrino, the same ones you can buy at Spec’s? The bread’s an easy answer, but Lucky’s also capitalizes on its symbiotic relationship with the Tiniest Bar in Texas next door.
There are bistro tables, picnic benches, even upholstered armchairs in a piazza-style setting separated from the racket of West Fifth by a cinderblock wall. The ground is paved with garden tiles, and there’s a gazebo-style tent covering communal tables, even a covered stage with bougainvillea. It’s like a biergarten with actual garden plants. It’s certainly among the two or three nicest trailer seating areas in the city.
But still, I’ll blame the bread.
817 W. Fifth St. 739-8785, www.facebook.com/LuckysPuccias.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Also 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. 7 p.m. to midnight Wednesday. 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday and Friday. Closed Monday.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)