Pop quiz: Which restaurant in KL serves up 55 varieties of pizza? If you think the answer is a pizza chain with shopping mall outlets, it’s not; it’s a classy Italian restaurant in an old-world setting called Luce, meaning light.
The pizzas are classed as Classic, Bianche (White, or without Tomato), and Speciality, which include the eponymous Luce as well as Zenzero, in a nod to the restaurant’s Italian fine-dining sister establishment. The keen-eyed will spot pizzas named Kavita and Roberto, which are, not coincidentally, the first names of the owners — beauty queen turned actress Kavita Sidhu and her geologist turned restaurateur husband Roberto Guiati. There are monthly pizza specials as well, raising the total number on offer, including unusual star-shaped pizzas.
The restaurant takes its pizzas seriously. It has a pizza chef, and the fragrance of freshly-baked pizza greets you when you first step into the restaurant. The setting, in Old Malaya, exudes its own charm, with outdoor seating that has a gorgeous view of KL Tower lighted up in multi-hued glory at night, and indoor seating in the cosy, wooden-floored confines within, with a spiral staircase leading upwards into the bar and dining area with an outdoor area. It would be impossible to miss the sleek, wood-fired Italian-made pizza oven in a corner of the restaurant, with pizzas shuffled in and out with giant spatulas.
The décor includes some exposed brickwork and intimate lighting for an overall rustic charm. A selection of table breads was served with oil and vinegar, and service was attentive, with plate and cutlery changes during the meal.
Pizzas are made with Italian flour and offered only in one size — 12in across — with a thin crust. We settled on the classic Napoli (RM38) with tomato sauce, mozarella cheese, anchovies and dried oregano.
We didn’t have to wait long for the amazing-looking pizza, with a blistered crust and a palette of rustic colours, to be served at the table, with chilli oil and chilli flakes to be added as desired. The fragrance was enticing as well, an invitation to pull out a triangle and dribble a little chilli oil for the first bite.
This was seriously good pizza. The crust was thin but beautifully fragrant, yielding without being crusty or hard, yet endowed with a substantial bite and infused with the salty tang of anchovy, the richness of tomato paste and the fullness of melted mozzarella cheese without being intrusively cheesy. There are so many pizzas with such a mouth-watering variety of toppings that surely, multiple visits are warranted.
But the restaurant does not only serve pizza, and although it deservedly takes top billing, it would be a mistake to miss some of the kitchen’s other offerings. The month’s special salad, Insalata Estiva (RM30), was just the thing for the tropical heat of the evening, being light and refreshing: watermelon cubes, walnuts, salad leaves, bits of ham and a balsamic dressing.
The restaurant has a full selection of Appetisers, Seconds, Mains and Desserts and makes its own pasta as well. We tried the Tonarelli ai Frutti di Mare (RM84), which was an embarrassment of heaped seafood — mussels, clams, big prawns, squid and octopus sections — in a delightfully thick, tangy tomato sauce. Buried beneath the seafood, the square-section tonarelli was thick and substantial, and possessed of a good bite that was well matched with the tomato sauce for a rustic, robust dish.
The homemade Tiramisu (RM28) demonstrates that the restaurant can turn out fine as well as rustic: it was light and balanced, and not overly sweet, airy or creamy. Finally, a small serving of homemade Limoncello (RM22), made with Italian liqueurs, proved rather strong at 28%.
For pizza, Luce takes the cake for authenticity and choice, but it’s also excellent for rustic Italian dining in a hard-to-beat, unostentatious setting.
Luce Osteria Contemporanea, Lot 10, Old Malaya, Jalan Raja Chulan, KL. 03 2078 8008. Daily, 12noon-3pm; 6pm onwards (Tues-Sun); 4pm onwards (Sun).
This article first appeared on Nov 12, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.