Noodling in: Marco & Luca conquer the Corner

dish-marco-luca-corner-0907“I think it's important to keep it simple,” says Marco & Luca's Dragana Katalina-Sun.

Looks like UVA students are finally discovering Marco & Luca dumplings now that they’ve opened a new shop on Elliewood Avenue where Sublime All-Natural Food & Juice Bar used to be. Indeed, the student writer of a Cav Daily review earlier this month hadn’t managed to make it down to Marco & Luca’s on the Downtown Mall in three years, but now that it’s right across the street, the popular dumplingery is discovered as if for the very first time. So was the use of cash.

“A small sign quickly caught my attention: “only cash and check orders accepted.” Panic engulfed me,” writes Hunter Terry. “Having trusted my debit card during the entirety of my adult life and hardly remembering what cash looks like, I was rightly flustered.”

Fortunately, you don’t need much of it. Three bucks buys you an order of dumplings, three-fifty an order of noodles. Indeed, the appeal of these doughy, pan-fried Downtown delicacies have been as much about the price as the taste.

Of course, its hard to believe that Marco & Luca owners, husband and wife team Dragana Katalina-Sun and Sun Da, hadn’t already opened a Corner location years ago. Their fast, simple, and cheap concept is tailor-made for college students. In fact, Dragana says that people have already been encouraging her husband– who mans the Corner location– to stay open late at night, giving the White Spot and Littlejohn’s a run for their munchie money, but Dragana says they aren’t quite ready to take that task on”Šyet.

For now, the Corner location is open until 8:30pm Monday through Thursday, and until 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

dish-marco-luca-corner0907jpgLate night? Not now, but Marco & Luca's dumplings could certainly give a Gusburger a late-night munchie challenge.

“He’s always wanted a location on the Corner,” says Dragana of her husband, who describes him as a “doer” and herself as a “talker.” Indeed, part of the charm of the downtown location has always been how Dragana seems to have something to say to everyone.

And the secret to those dumplings?

“I think it's important to keep it simple,” she says.

Dragana says the menu is exactly the same as the one Downtown, though the space is a little smaller. When Dish visited around 1pm there was a steady stream of customers coming through the door.

“It starts at about 12:30,” she says

What is it about these things?

Two years ago, Dragana tried opening a health food eatery based on Donna Gates’ book The Body Ecology Diet in the little Second Street window where Marco & Luca got its start, but found she “couldn’t handle it” and closed last year.

“It was losing money, and I had three kids to take care of,” she says, “but I really miss it.”

If fact, she says they are still planning to open “something” in the little Second Street window. “Something quick,” she says. “It’s a great place for that.”

Apparently, so is the Corner.


Now wouldn't that be a hoot if all the rich corporate preppy people who work downtown were lining up on their lunch breaks to eat re-heated dumplings from Sam's Club. bwwwwahahahahaha! If it is true then let's be fair - most restaurants are serving up re-heated who knows what that they get in bulk. They're not actually making stuff "from scratch." Please. That's why once you know how to cook then it takes all the fun out of eating out. Especially if the stuff you make is better than the restaurants.
At this point we pretty much only eat out at places if it's food we don't know how or haven't attempted to make ourselves. Otherwise there's no point...we could make it better, and for far less money, and that's what takes the fun out of it.

Yepper, all I can say is, you must not have good taste in food if you think "everything" on their menu is yummy. Blech! :P But that's just me. Obviously others disagree. I don't know how this place is considered a "go-to" option for food downtown, but apparently it is as there are people lining up everyday for lunch there, all the corporate types with their long coats and preppy wardrobes on their office lunch hour. (That and Revolutionary Soup, which is also highly overrated yet jam packed full of the preppy long coat wearing office lunch hour crowd. We got soup there once and never went back again. Overpriced, and not great quality for the high cost. Got much better soup at the Country Store, down at the other end of the mall. More of it for less cost, and 10 times better quality and taste.) But that's an off topic side rant I suppose. This entry is about Marco and Luca, not "who the hell would eat at _______?" (fill in the blank of any of the places that pepper the downtown mall.)

In conclusion: Christian's Pizza forever! :D

The point is:
People enjoy being suckers if it means a pat on the head. It's worth it for you to be mister world peace.
The atmosphere is nice, yes.
Nationality of the owners is of no concern to me.
People want to eat cheap food covered in sugar sauce, fried up crispy and call it chinese food.It's a sham buddy. Nothing to be proud of, really.
Bruce springsteen said " that's not chinese food man, but yeah its cheap. Depends on what your looking for, I guess. "

I am not proud of the dumpling stand or its owners or their food.

Bodo's does have foam containers. They use paper to wrap bagels. Reusable plastic for the salads.

Since when does working on the Mall or near the mall mean one is a rich, preppy, or working for big corporation? Aside from SNL and Lexus Nexus, I can't think of what company is employing all those rich people and why no one else in town is allowed to wear long coats.

Oops. Bodo's DOESN't have foam containers.

People: That is frozen food, served on styrofoam. I could give a crap how much money they make or what they sound like or look like or came from.
Thing is, many people do. That's why they shovel it down. Oh and its cheap, i guess you can never underestimate a person's desire to pay less for less.
The point is: cheap american products served up by chinese people calling it chinese.
God bless China Taste.
Also, God bless whoever opens a real pan asian all night place downtown.

team food, despite your obvious bitterness, many people enjoy the dumplings. Also, they have a good time in the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant. Coincidentally or not, you seem to avoid the place.

Why not open an American restaurant serving American food for Americans then? I mean, seriously, what's your point other than to deride and American success story. So they weren't born in the USA. Bruce Springsteen would be proud of them and so should you.

i don't know about you guys but Marco and Lucas has the best Hot & Sour Soup in town. i've had it from many restaurants that offer it in town and they just don't compare.

Prepare for a rumor...when the dumpling shop first opened and I was working on the mall right near their little window, Dragana told me that she was spending many hours every night making the dumplings from scratch. I believed her and ate many dumplings. I did grow tired of them after a while, and a co-worker told me that because the demand for the dumplings was so great, Dragana couldn't keep up and had begun to buy the frozen dumplings at Sam's. No idea if this is true, but when they first opened, the dumplings were delicious and not quite as uniform as they are now.

boo, which is it? Is it "just you" or must I have poor taste.

People can have different opinions. I could just as easily say, "boo, you must have a sad and narrow existence to make such a judgmental, sweeping statement about someone because of their opinion about dumplings. but that's just me."

@yepper: Dunno, really.

conservative, wouldn't that run afoul of the health dept regulations? The restaurant would need to wash your dish before serving food on it.

Your solution is from the "responsible citizens taking care of themselves" talking points. But people go to a restaurant to be taken care of so your idea doesn't really fit the circumstances.

Anonymously said:

ââ?¬Å?It was loosing money, and I had three kids to take care of,” she says, ââ?¬Å?but I really miss it.”

It’s LOSING money. (Sorry ââ?¬â? grammar pet peeve of mine.)'s is

It's is a contraction for It is (my grandfather did not consider the use of contractions as "good grammar") and since the reference was past tense "was" is correct "is" is not.

Are you "peeved" now? What you pointed out was a misspelling but you committed a grammatical error in doing so!

I had heard the M & L bought their dumplings at Sams. Nomofoam you can make them at home - defrost first!

funny. Just did a search for the word "chinese" on this page and the first instance is Team Food's comment. He's the one bringing up accents, nationalities, etc, etc, etc. He says he doesn't like the food. Apparently he DOES like to focus on that which he claims not to like? Must be fun!

I love the dumplings and always will. I'm very happy for their continued success and look forward to their further expansion!

Dumpling fight!

Now, everyone go home and watch The Simpsons with sub-titles.
Your culture quota will be met for the day.

Geez, you can tell from one silly comment that racism still abounds in Cville? If that's your criterion, good luck finding anyplace it doesn't "abound".

If you have an accent and have a restaurant, then you can:
Sell very mediocre food.
Be very wasteful.
Tie up a great location for your pet/vanity projects.
Generally be tacky and static.

I think it's kind of overrated, but that's just me. We used to eat there but after awhile the smell of the food made me feel like gagging. The dumplings in particular smell godawful, I don't know how people eat them. I understand why some people think simple is better, but sometimes there's such a thing as being "too simple." Canned soda and a stinky, two trick pony menu does not a favorite restaurant make! ;P

Good dumplings. I don't eat there anymore and avoid Bodo's for the most part because I got tired of throwing so much styrofoam away every time I wanted a snack. About 50% of what's in Dave McNair's picture of the dumplings goes into the trash. I don't want to spend my money encouraging that. If they found another way to do it, I'd be back for sure.

Good article and yes, I'll go there (as soon as the ice floes break up).


ââ?¬Å?It was loosing money, and I had three kids to take care of,” she says, ââ?¬Å?but I really miss it.”

It's LOSING money. (Sorry -- grammar pet peeve of mine.)

The secret to the dumplings....well the secret is that they sell dumplings that they buy frozen, some even from the local Asian markets. They do not make their dumplings, that is why they can charge so little for them. Who even knows what is in the dumplings, where they are coming from, etc.... As far as Bodo's is concerned, at least they are making their own bagels, without MSG, and they are made locally. Nomofoam, I am sure if you complain, Bodo's would nix the styrofoam.

BTW, if you want real homemade dumplings, Pad Thai, near Beer Run, makes their own. They are not expensive and they blow Marco & Luca out of the water. How about writing an article about those local dumplings?

these dumplings are making me thirsty.....

@nomofoam: Have you ever tried bringing your own bowl/dish, and asking the server to plate them using that?

We are grateful for all the people that are customers at our "venerable" restaurant. You can absolutely argue about, well everything from our source of our dumplings, to the (awful, awful) containers, and even to the accent of the owners (though thats not necessarily appreciated). Homemade, organic, dumplings, in a biodegradable container would be awesome, (cough, cough Nicola's Veggies) but thats not a feasible feat (unless you don't mind paying ten dollars a pop)Enjoy if you like and have a wonderful time,one d(umpling)ay at a time...

PS. Im not going to argue whether the "decor" is tacky or not

team food seems to be resentful of other people's success. The fact that they would have an "accent" apparently REALLY sticks in team food's craw!

If you don't like the food, eat elsewhere. They don't need your business and are doing quite well with those that don't mind that they don't sound like they were born and raised in Charlottesville.

God Bless America!!!

Wow, Team Food. Good to know that racism still abounds in Cville.

Say what? Somebody called?

I think that Anonymously was suggesting that the phrase should be "losing money" instead of "loosing money." Hence, "It's LOSING money" as a short way of saying, "It should be, 'It was losing money.'"

boo, I never thought of Marco and Luca as fine cuisine and if you don't like it fine, but definitely it is one of the 'go to' options downtown and should succeed as well on the corner. I think everything on the menu is yummy and the cheapness is just a bonus. Their business model is nearly foolproof and they should do well for a long time.