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Review: La Luce by Donna Scala

I’ve been SO excited to write this review; I can’t wait to introduce you guys to what has become one of my favorite Italian restaurants of all time. (Yep, this is the place that has that amazing butterscotch pudding.)

Atmosphere

La Luce by (California celeb chef) Donna Scala is located in the middle of Disney World property at the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort. The restaurant is a great juxtaposition of sleek lines and cool tile coupled with warm leather, soft pillows, and bright chalk artwork…on actual chalkboards. No kidding — the artists work exclusively on chalkboards and come into La Luce about four times per year to update the artwork with new drawings and scenes.

Chalk Artwork

Seating

Seating

Seating

My favorite part of the decor was this lighting. I couldn’t take enough pictures of it, but I’ll spare you and only share one!

Lighting

La Luce’s pizzas and flatbreads are a star component of their menu, so take some time to watch the chefs over by the pizza oven! And if Donna Scala is in the restaurant when you’re there, maybe you can convince her to slice some fresh prosciutto for you at the bright red slicer on the counter. :-)

Chef and Pizza Oven

Prosciutto Slicer

But, soon you’ll take your place at one of their gorgeous tables and be on your way to…well…bliss.

Eats

We started out the meal some gorgeous rustic bread and a series of appetizers — fritto misto (calamari, green beans, onions, fennel, rock shrimp served with spicy aioli), olive fritte (fried Spanish olives and Marcona almonds), and the bruschetta del giorno — along with a bellini, a limonata, and a martini. Sounds good so far, right?

Bread

Bellini

Limonata

Martini

The fritto misto was gorgeous — not at all too greasy — and the spicy aioli was the perfect compliment. The olive fritte is one of the restaurant’s specialties, and POW! They’re strong, juicy, and very tasty. If you’re an olive fan, these are the perfect starter for you.

The bruschetta was…well, you can see it right there — ripe, rich tomatoes and extremely fresh flavors, but very light. It was exactly what you want to start with after a long day in the hot Florida sun…or after sitting through a million networking meetings at a conference.

Fritto Misto, Olive Fritte, Bruschetta

Next up — our pizza! I usually can’t pass up a four cheese pizza, and this evening was no different. The quattro formaggi pizze was topped with Proscuitto San Daniele (yum), but that’s not their only offering. Check out the dinner menu here for the rest of the options!

This pizza was delicious; the salty-tangy-rich combination of tastes from the cheese coupled with the freshly sliced prosciutto. There’s nothing better than simple, fresh flavors brought together perfectly — everything in there makes everything else taste better. There’s no other way to put it. I loved this dish.

Quattro Formaggi Pizza with Prosciutto

You’d think we’d be full by now, but you guys know me better than that! On to the entrees!

We shared a single serving “tris” of pastas, choosing the Bucatini Amatriciana for me (beefaroni!), Fettucini alla Lina (a specialty of the house), and a pasta called Silk Handkerchiefs with pesto. The Bucatini was heavenly. I’m a big fan of spicy sauces, and this — with onions, peppers, and more — was incredible. I could easily have eaten a whole bowl of this stuff. The Fettucini was easily my husband’s favorite; the rich, distinct sauce won him over. And the Silk Handkerchiefs were a delicious surprise. While I really like pesto, I don’t usually want an entire dish with it, so this was the perfect amount. And the pasta itself, folded over and into the pesto and cheese, was an entirely new texture for me! It was very good — perfect for those of you who are tired of the same ol’ same ol’ pastas you see in every Italian restaurant.

Tris of Pastas

Then we were served our main entrees: Seared Salmon Filet, Chimay Braised Short Ribs, and the Risotto del Giorno — a creamy, wonderful, cheesy risotto on the day we visited.

The Salmon offered a fresh, snappy flavor and was the perfect portion size. Served with a Chive Butter Sauce, you can’t go wrong. The short ribs (my husband loved them) were extremely flavorful and came with a variety of fresh vegetables that balanced the heavier rib texture. And the risotto — oh, my risotto. Just do me a favor and don’t skip the risotto when you go to La Luce. Whatever they’re serving, order it.

Seared Salmon Filet

Chimay Braised Short Ribs

Risotto del Giorno

We paired all of this with a full Scala Cabernet house wine — lovely.

Scala Cabernet Savignon

On to desserts! Of these, we tried many! Tiramisu, Bostini Trifle, Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Summer Berry Shortcake, and that incredible Butterscotch Pudding!

My favorites of this bunch were the pudding (you can see my dedication to it here — salted, chocolate-covered toffee — yum); the Summer Berry Shortcake, which is probably one of my favorite non-chocolate desserts of all time with its rich, but light, shortcake, real whipped cream, and incredible fresh berries; and the Bostini Trifle (think Boston Cream Pie in a glass!). While the Panna Cotta was refreshing, it’s never been one of my favorite desserts due to the texture, so I was the wrong audience for this one. And the Tiramisu gets rave reviews elsewhere, but because I don’t love alcohol tastes in my desserts, it didn’t win me over.

Tiramisu

Bostini Trifle

Summer Berry Shortbread

Panna Cotta

Butterscotch Pudding and Salted Chocolate Covered Toffee

Overall

This is the kind of restaurant where you can lose yourself in the great food, company, and conversation. Gather a group and sit around a big table with a few bottles of wine; or grab a quiet table for one looking out over the pool and green space, sip a bellini, and indulge in some of the most incredible pasta you’ve ever tried.

It really is an affordable luxury for anyone on vacation or on business in the Orlando area; I can highly, highly recommend it. (And if you want to bring my husband and me along with you, just give us a call — we’re willing to go back any chance we get!)

Thanks to the Hilton Bonnet Creek for the wonderful opportunity to try out this new restaurant! While our dinner and hotel stay was complimentary, I was not obligated or compensated to write this review, much less love the restaurant so much that I can’t wait to go back.

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8 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Sarah says:

    Ok, I’ve got to get over there. Everything looks delicious!

  3. Alan says:

    A great addition to the Italian fare at WDW. These non Disney restaurants you have been reviewing lately cannot help but set a nice high mark for the Disney owned eateries. A rising tide does lift all boats.

  4. Brenda says:

    We will take you up on that offer to meet for dinner here the next time all four (or six) of us are back at WDW …. looks amazing!! :-)

  5. Jen says:

    That Pizza looks so, so good :) might have to go stick one in the oven now although it obviously won’t be anything nearly as good as that haha. Great review! :D

  6. AJ says:

    Heather — My thoughts exactly.

    Sarah — It really is incredible! And the prices are pretty good. It’s a great value and a wonderful meal.

    Alan — I agree. And these places are simply amazing. I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to discover them.

    Brenda — YES! That would be so much fun!

    Jen — The pizza is great there; definitely worth the calories ;-D

  7. Keith says:

    Hilton Bonnet Creek’s Facebook fan page has Donna scoop:

    Donna’s Back in Town! Donna Scala, the celebrity chef and restaurateur behind La Luce, is back in town this week. This is a great time to stop by to try some of her new recipes.

  8. Mary says:

    Dined there in November… it was amazing! Service and food and decor was perfection. Can’t wait to go back next November when my company will again be hosting a big conference. I had the Ravioli and it did not disappoint. :P

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