Lucca’s of Pelham Bay closes; Orrico’s set to take over

Lucca’s of Pelham Bay closes; Orrico’s set to take over
Schneps Media/Alex Mitchell

A Pelham Bay staple is changing hands after 12 meaningful years on Westchester Avenue.

Lucca’s Italian restaurant, probably known best for its shrimp fusilli in vodka sauce, closed its doors for good at the end of January.

The decision wasn’t an easy one for owner Lucia Mariani, who’s love for her customers is second to none.

“I’ll miss them so much,” she said, reminiscing on her time in the food industry – that started at age 15. “We were friends with the customers. There were so many great memories,” Mariani added.

During the daytime however, Mariani puts aside her apron and is a devoted teacher at P.S. 72 in Throggs Neck.

Over the past dozen years she’s easily juggled her educational career while maintaining the popular Pelham Bay restaurant. That was until a broken leg hindered Mariani’s ability to oversee Lucca’s some weeks ago, which was part of why she decided to close.

Lucca’s may be gone but the area will not be losing one of its few remaining Italian eateries. A new restaurant is already poised to take the 3019 Westchester Avenue location.

Mariani sold her restaurant to a fellow Pelham Bayite and passionate Italian chef hailing from Edison Avenue, Robert Orrico.

It’s been his dream to own not just a restaurant, but this particular one because the history behind the joint before it was Lucca’s.

That spot on Westchester Avenue was previously Joe Nina’s, a hoppin’ Italian kitchen that drew crowds from all over the city, Long Island and Westchester. The namesake was a popular restauranteur that served the neighborhood for dozens of years and it wasn’t unusual to run into celebrities eating among the locals.

Growing up, Orrico idolized the place, calling it “the jewel of the neighborhood.” He also admired Joe Nina’s last owner, Michael Brown, whom was killed in a violent shooting in 2001.

“This is like owning the Yankees for me,” he said, reflecting on his prior culinary history as a chef in Queens at Patsy’s. Orrico even made his first bowl of pasta at eight years old.

Naturally, he plans to call the new restaurant Orrico’s.

When it opens in late March he’ll be making a few changes to the interior and the menu.

One of the more notable menu changes coming will be the Italian egg roll appetizers, which will come in a few varieties such as, buffalo chicken and Philly cheesesteak, to name some.

Another notable treat Oricco’s will have on the menu is a neighborhood favorite – ‘old-school’ hot lunch heroes – as well as ‘dirty chips’ with meatballs, a blend of gorgonzola cheese and cream sauce into a wild, yet delectable savory dish.

A natural born chef, Oricco will naturally be spending an inordinate amount of his time in the kitchen, creating all of these wonderful dishes himself.

Oricco’s also guarantees one of ‘the best homemade New York cheesecake’ around.

He will be honoring all Lucca’s gift certificates at Oricco’s.

Stop by Orrico’s to taste all the new and exciting dish options that will be on deck. Here’s a worthwhile tip from this reporter: I recommend anything covered in the filetto di pomodoro Bolognese sauce.