Adding gourmet ingredients to a meal makes a commonplace activity feel special, much like brushing your teeth with a sparkler or withdrawing money from an ATM while holding it at gunpoint. Add 'zazz to a de rigueur dinner with today's Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of upscale Italian bistro fare and drinks at Luca Bar in the East Village.
Merging the convivial spirits of France's corner bistros with the hearty repasts of Italian trattorias, Luca Bar assumes the role of jocular ambassador to St. Marks Place's visiting nightlife dignitaries. Luca's Tuscan comestibles stoke fiery bellies with toothy entree kindling, such as the seared hanger steak with home fries and field greens ($16) or mussels steamed with white wine, onions, garlic, and parsley ($15). Gregarious gourmands, meanwhile, can entertain their dining parties with table-spanning plates of portobello tapenade bruschetta ($8), or they can construct impromptu pizza Twister mats with Luca's range of savory circles ($12+), including basic margherita, mushroom-laced funghi, and the bacon-and-blue-cheese-laden arugula. Luca's well-stocked cellar of international vintages gives tipplers something elegant to spray out of their mouths when they hear surprising news, with seven house wines ($7 per glass) rubbing goblets with world-spanners such as Argentina's Tierra de Luna Malbec ($9) and France's Dom D'Amilhac Pinot Chardonnay ($8). The draft suds flowing from Luca's taps will likewise fill expectant glasses with Belgium's Delirium Tremens ($9) and Germany's Weihenstephan ($8).
Encased in Luca Bar's inviting exposed brick, toastmasters can frame their raised glasses and spaghetti-swirled forks against the lattice of Luca's picturesque picture window. The bar also keeps heads a-nodding with a live performance schedule that includes Latin guitar on Tuesdays and belly dancing on Thursdays. Luca Bar is cash only and accepts payment only in the form of crisp banknotes, jangly coins, and Easter Island heads.