Being more night-owls than morning people, we tend to review more lunches and dinners than breakfasts or brunches. But we recognize that some of you (okay, most of you) probably do actually get out before noon. So we set the alarm and headed on over to Luca & Leonardo this Sunday to give their weekend brunch a try - here's how it went.
First of all, we can dispense with the theory that since fewer restaurants offer the morning meal, everywhere you go will be crowded and you'll have to be prepared to wait; when we arrived at 11:30, the restaurant was perhaps one third occupied and we were seated right away.
We chose a table on the patio, overlooking The Waterway. We were pleased to discover the ambiance of the rustic decor carried out seamlessly onto the patio. Blending into the natural surroundings that are The Woodlands, live flowers and plants surround the patio, and thankfully, the flowers do not seem to attract bees. Our server, Bill, arrived immediately upon our settling in and exchanged pleasantries with us for a moment before taking our beverage order. Though initially caught off guard by our request for "half-caf" coffees ($3 each), he was happy to oblige us - and kept our cups full throughout the meal.
While we waited for our meals to arrive, we noticed another server showing her table an assortment of pastries from a wicker tray she was carrying around. Eavesdropping on her description of the pastries, we thought we heard her state they were free; but when she arrived at our table a few minutes later, we received the unclear explanation that they were "maybe a dollar or so each" - a reasonable amount, it would seem, for the size and spectrum of offerings: chocolate muffins with cream cheese or berry cream cheese topping, danishes, banana nut bread, blueberry bread and more.
Oddly enough, considering the relatively small crowd at the restaurant, we did seem to wait an exceptionally long time for our three dishes - none of which included any special orders or menu variations. Still more troubling was that while none of the dishes were cold per se, nothing was served piping hot either, as though they had been plated and sat for some time before being brought out. But again, this is a leisurely Sunday brunch, not an eat and run breakfast, so with the exception of the cooler temperatures, the timing was such that it was not at all troubling. We waited perhaps a little more than 20 minutes for our late-morning meal.
We ordered three different meals; the WAFFLES BELGIAN STYLE served with maple syrup ($7) (which in actuality is one waffle), the TEXAS FRENCH TOAST, classic French toast served with red berry sauce ($7) (which mysteriously did not come with red berry sauce, but chopped apples with grapes and sweet cream) and the MANZO E PROVOLONE OMELETTE made with Tenderloin strips, "home made" dried tomatoes, carmellized [sic] onions and provolone, served with house made potatoes ($10). The two of us that stuck with the carbs also split a side of bacon ($2).
The Belgian waffle was perfectly browned and formed, though could have been slightly crispier. We prefer the waffle not get too soggy when butter and syrup are added. The flavor was hearty and warm - a hint of vanilla and not plain or dull. The sweet cream topping was a welcome addition, allowing for less syrup by adding another dimension to the flavor of an otherwise plain tasting waffle. The bacon had a nice, meaty flavor, not salty and was cooked very crisp, though not overdone.
French toast can go really well or really bad, and rarely rides the middle of the road, however, the Texas French toast did exactly that. The bread kept its form and was light and springy, not flattened by too much custard and was not soggy. There was the slightest hint of cinnamon, vanilla and maybe almond flavoring, but nothing overwhelming or remarkable in that regard. We asked about that missing red berry sauce, but when Bill quickly returned from the kitchen he instead provided a blueberry compote; it was good, but we couldn't help but wonder if we might have missed out on something better.
The Manzo e Provolone omelette was made with perhaps two eggs, rolled crepe style around the tenderloin strips and provolone. The tenderloin was flavorful and tender, though slightly chewy. Curiously, the tomatoes were not in the omelette at all, they were instead served under the potatoes. But those tomatoes! The tomatoes had a wonderful, sweet without being sugary, tart tomato-y flavor and were soft without being mushy. The potatoes were skillet-style, pan fried and tender with a mild, non-de script seasoning. All of the servings were such that we ultimately passed on the pastry basket.
Overall, the meal was favorable, reasonably priced for the portion sizes, presentation and establishment. The menu has a broad enough range of options that anyone could find something to enjoy, from the young child to the older adults. Our unsolicited advice to the restaurant would be to make some clarifications on the menu - no one expects more than one Belgian waffle generally, but the plural could be confusing - as is the inclusion of the tomatoes in the omelette description when they are actually in the potatoes - only because it lead us to wonder, had we passed on the potatoes, would we have missed out on those fabulous tomatoes?
Which leads us to our recommendation to the reader; if you like sun dried tomatoes in general, you'll love Luca & Leonardo's in particular. Also, be sure to ask for Bill, not only is his service and manner excellent (as one would expect from the head waiter with 15 years experience), he is quite the conversationalist and enjoys sharing his love of music.
Luca & Leonardo is located on The Waterway, adjacent to Crush and Grimaldi's. They are open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, with brunch on Sundays only. Oh, and if you have any questions about the menu, feel free to ask.
Think we got it wrong? Or did we hit the nail on the head? Let us know in the comments below. And remember, you don't have to take our word for it - give them a try for yourself and decide!
Luca and Leonardo closed in 2014