While driving to Mountain City, Tennessee for a weekend get-away for our Anniversary we passed La Cucina. It stuck out to us because it’s an Italian restaurant in a small cottage directly in front of someone’s house along a mostly residential stretch of Highway 67 in Doe Valley, Tennessee. While looking a bit out of place we made a mental note since we love Italian cuisine. Just a few miles down the road we arrived at our destination at Prospect Hill B&B Inn at Mountain City, Tennessee.
After checking in, chatting with the Inn-keeper and a little walk around the small town; we were ready to eat. As we do in most new towns when we’re hungry, we checked Urbanspoon to see what folks thought about the local dining sites. We found several of interest but none more so than that little Italian restaurant we passed on the way into town. Scoring 93% along with some glowing endorsements from previous diners, we knew where we were heading to eat.
One of the interesting tidbits about this neck of the woods is that Johnson County, Tennessee is a dry county. While it is sad that they don’t allow restaurants to sell wine, beer or liquor, wine and beer are allowed to be brown bagged into the establishments. Usually, the wine is kept in the kitchen for you and poured into coffee mugs (yes, coffee mugs!); however, some allow you to keep the bottle on the floor under the table but the coffee mugs are still the preferred chalice in the area apparently. We found it unique and fun and went with the flow. Of course, we usually travel with our own wine on special weekends like this. Those that don’t think ahead will have a bit of a drive to correct the situation.
Matteo Torri, an Italian offering traditional dishes found in Milan and Lombardy, Italy, is the owner and Chef of La Cucina. The small eatery has 16 seats with the kitchen visible from all with additional seats on the outdoor patio in good weather. Several photos adorn the walls that were taken by Matteo, a talented photographer, who met his wife during a photo shoot in Ecuador. By the way, the house that sits directly behind the restaurant is where Matteo lives. He merely has a short walk to get to work. You know he has to be passionate about this place to build it in his own front yard!
The menu can be found on the chalkboard posted in the dining room. The server, a local with a Dolly Parton accent that we instantly fell in love with, was knowledgeable and infatuated with Matteo’s cooking. The music was a fascinating mix of old-time country, Elvis and other hits that remind you that you’re in the woods of Tennessee.
Our server started us out by bringing containers of olive oil and balsamic, parmesan and a spicy vinegar based sauce with green onions (that was so good we bought some to go – it’s a recipe that he gained from his wife’s family in Ecuador). Along with these was a small basket of house baked bread; focaccia and crusty Italian white bread. We love our bread and it was refilled throughout the night for us.
We began our meal with the Misto ($10.50) a platter of Italian meat, cheeses and olives that was more than enough for the both of us. I love the flavors of Italy and there is nothing comparable to a selection like this. By the way, when you order the server yells it back to Matteo who confirms it by yelling the order back to her. We didn’t expect that at all but found it very quaint and just part of La Cucina’s charm.
We also ordered a bowl of Onion Soup ($5.75) to share. It sounded good and it was cold outside so it seemed appropriate. This is not the beef stock based soup that you tend to think of but rather vegetable stock that has a lighter taste and richness to the soup. Yet there was plenty of cheese on top to fill more of my cheese craving. The soup was very good.
My wife ordered the Meatballs ($11.50) which come atop a bowl of pasta. This was another healthy portion that she was unable to finish at dinner. The dish was exactly what she was looking for and she absolutely loved it.
I went with the Ravioli Truffle ($15.00) a simple presentation of about half a dozen porcini stuffed ravioli garnished with fresh sage, two and a half year old shaved parmesan and white truffle oil. I love truffles and this dish was meant to highlight the distinct musky and nutty character that draws me to them. Not a big order but then you really don’t need a lot of these to satisfy your hunger and your truffle cravings.
We didn’t need it but we had to try it any way so we order one Tiramisu ($6.00) to share along with an Affogato for each of us. The tiramisu was perfect while not as ‘wet’ as some it went flawlessly with our affogato (espresso with ice cream and their version was chocolate chip ice cream – Oooohhh, yeah!).
Yes, I recommend La Cucina very much. We loved everything about it even the coffee mugs! Also come prepared because this is CASH ONLY. But you see the prices, it's worth being prepared.
La Cucina Italian Kitchen
6811 HWY 67 W
Mountain City, Tennessee 37683