A few weeks before my birthday Adam asked what I wanted, I said, “I just want to go out to eat somewhere fantastic!” He ended up taking me to one of the best Italian restaurants in Washington D.C., Casa Luca by Chef Fabio Trabocchi, and it was the BEST birthday dinner experience I have ever had. The team at Casa Luca truly made my birthday more special than I have ever experienced or expected. I cannot wait to share my fabulous dining experience with everyone. Please read with a full stomach….
The best way I can describe Casa Luca is – an upscale casual traditional Italian restaurant that has perfect food execution and exceptional service that you can find at Michelin Star restaurants. Adam and I have dined at some of the best restaurants in the world, and Casa Luca blew us away! I would say it is a hidden gem, but as I stated earlier, Casa Luca is known as being one of the best Italian restaurants in D.C., which has a vast amount of top notch restaurants.
Casa Luca is owned and operated by the dynamic culinary duo, Chef Fabio and Maria Trabocchi. This is one of their three Italian restaurants in the nation’s capitol. I was informed that they have another Italian restaurant and a Spanish-seafood restaurant in the works that will be inspired by where Maria grew up – the Island of Mallorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Being new to the city, we were delighted to find a culinary power couple that can deliver authentic Italian cuisine in a welcoming ambience and execute every detail of a dining experience with precision.
The food prepared at Casa Luca is inspired by the city where Chef Fabio was born and raised – Le Marche, located in central Italy near the Adriatic Sea. The kitchen is led by Executive Chef, Erin Clarke, and she comes with a prestigious resume. She uses her classic French culinary techniques with traditional Italian cuisine to deliver exquisite entrees. The desserts are helmed by Corporate Pastry Chef, Brandon Malzahn. He turns simple, traditional desserts and adds a twist to enhance its flavor and presentation to create something sweet and delicious that guests have not experienced before.
The decor of Casa Luca was contemporary-industrial. Wooden features throughout the restaurant, with beautiful lanterns and lighting fixtures. The restaurant was dimly lit, and had intimate seating which makes it the perfect place for a romantic date. The restaurant has a bar, and two dining rooms – the main dining room includes the bar and entryway, while the room in the back has a little more privacy that could be used to host parties. The dining room in the back had beautiful black and white pictures of the Trabocchi family and windows for guests to watch the cooks prepare their delicious food. When you walk throughout the restaurant it feels like you are walking in the Trabocchi’s home. I imagine that was the goal because of the restaurant design – the staff are all welcoming and treat us with great hospitality and the food is from the region of where Chef Fabio grew up. In addition, the menu has a wonderful quote from Chef Fabio and Maria Trabocchi that says, “Casa Luca is about our family table at home. We love sharing and the happiness of doing so with each other.”
When we approached the hostess stand she seated us at our table and our server, Michele greeted us almost instantly. She welcomed us to Casa Luca and then wished me a happy birthday. I was surprised by the touch, I knew we were there for my birthday, but I did not realize Adam told them when he made the reservation and lets be honest…its always nice to hear everyone wish you happy birthday I mean its “your” day after all. As often as we go out to eat, especially on special occasions, you would be surprised by how many servers do not even acknowledge your special occasion.
After we met Michele we received our menus and then the sommelier, Brandon, came by and also wished me a happy birthday! Already love this place! We actually hit off with Brandon right away, he was genuine and very easy to talk to. He answered all my questions and concerns I had with choosing my wine and after tasting between two white wines I ended up choosing an Italian white wine from a 2015 Roero Arneis Giovanni Almondo ‘Vigne Sparse’. It was a fabulous dry wine that had a crisp flavor of pear with very little sweet notes.
Adam and I started our dinner with two appetizers – Scallop Crudo and Meatballs.
If there are ever meatballs on the menu there is a always a high chance we will be ordering them. The size and quantity of the meatballs were perfect! We did have another appetizer, but if we were to have ordered only the meatballs it would have been enough. The meatballs were pretty darn tasty! They had great flavor and texture with melted cheese around them which enhanced the richness – cheese makes everything better.
Oh my gosh….where to start? Michele had explained to us that this appetizer was very typical at Italian weddings – I think its safe to say that if we ever go to an Italian wedding you can find us where the food is. The scallops were fresh off the boat from Nantucket Bay and were so rich and delicate! I am loving the fresh seafood of the east coast already. Composing the entree were greens, pickled onions, fresh dill, fennel cream, flash-fried capers, and chicken filled olives that were deep fried and edible flowers to give some bright colors…wow! Every component complimented the other. The fried olives gave warmth to the cold dish and excellent flavor while the pickled onions and flash fried capers added some sourness and saltiness. The scallops were tossed in the fennel cream and really brightened the dish with its licorice flavor and paired well with the scallops. Everything tasted great by itself, but when every component was in one bite it was a true masterpiece!
Ravioli San Leo
Adam is a sucker for ravioli so I was not surprised with his order. Every pasta is made in house at Casa Luca, so we knew we would be getting an excellent product. The pillows of ravioli were filled with the soft, delicate, sweet ricotta cheese that was coated in a lemon herb cream sauce. Toasted almonds added a nice contrast of texture and nuttiness to the dish. Edible flowers were decorated on the ravioli to make the most colorful and prettiest plate of ravioli we’ve ever seen. This entree was overall very light, clean, earthy, and refreshing.
Acquerello Risotto al Parmigiano
Risotto to me is like ravioli to Adam, it is my favorite! When I saw two of my favorite things on one entree I instantly wanted it, but I was hesitate because of the price. Luckily I have an amazing husband who reminded me that it was my birthday and convinced me that I deserved this amazing meal. So what was my other favorite thing? White truffles. We happened to be dining during white truffle season and Casa Luca offered an entree I couldn’t resist – table side parmesan risotto with white truffle shaved on top. My entree was not just an entree, it was a show! A server comes out with a beautiful set up on a cart with a huge wheel of parmesan cheese! The shape of a bowl was carved out in the middle of the wheel of parmesan for a designated purpose. The server lights the parmesan bowl on fire and adds the risotto inside and finishes cooking the risotto on the spot stirring all the melted parmesan inside making it nice and creamy. My mouth was watering just watching him. Once the risotto was cooked perfectly he placed the risotto in a hot ceramic bowl and set it down on the table in front of me. Then he took out the treasured piece of white truffle and weighed it at 71 grams! He made shaving 3 grams of white truffle over the risotto look so sexy (I’m talking about the white truffle). I think he saw how excited I was so after he shaved 3 grams he shaved a little more for me – very nice guy. By now you are probably wondering how much this was? Well for 3 grams it was $50, 6 grams was $90 and any additional gram was an $18 supplement. Worth…every…penny!!!
Always our favorite part of a meal. By this time we were both getting full and even though we wanted two desserts we settled for one. Casa Luca had tiramisu to be shared between 2 – 4 people and I really did want that, but as I stated before I was just too full for something that heavy. I think we might come in again just to have tiramisu. The other dessert we were eyeing was the chocolate cake because it came well recommended. We opted for the bomboloni instead because we have not had bomboloni since we were in Italy this past summer and we already miss it. While we were in Italy, Bomboloni became our favorite dessert. Casa Luca really did have all of our favorite things.
While we were trying to decide what we wanted to have for dessert we talked with Michele and told her about our trip to Italy. Jokingly we told her how we had drank grappa and it made hair grow on our chests. We laughed and told her that we were more of sambuca and limoncello drinkers. With that being said, five minutes later Michele brought us complimentary glasses of limoncello!
And if that was not enough to wow us, she brought us a complimentary chocolate cake too! On top of the chocolate cake was a candle and she handed me an envelope that had a carnation inside that wished me a happy birthday from the team of Casa Luca. I was so touched by every aspect that had happened in those ten minutes. The happy birthday card was a very unique touch, typically restaurants give you a candle with dessert and/or write happy birthday in chocolate on the plate. This card was so different and I really liked that about it!
Thin layers of dark chocolate cake and dark chocolate ganache with a thick layer on top. Little meringue kisses sat on top of the cake and gave a really nice contrast of texture and brought lightness to the dessert. The cake was soft, rich and decadent whereas the meringue kisses were light, airy and had a crisp bite.
On a side note – my candle was a trick candle and took forever to blow out! I got lightheaded, but it was fun!
As I stated earlier, Adam and I love bombolonis, in fact our whole Italian family loves them. After having them in Italy and being our favorite, Casa Luca’s ricotta bomboloni had a lot to live up to and boy did they exceed themselves again. Casa Luca’s ricotta bomboloni were different from the ones we had in Italy – it was one of those creative twists from Chef Brandon. The ricotta bomboloni were small and more spherical than the traditional bomboloni in Italy and were extremely soft and not very heavy. They were served warm in a basket covered in sugar to enhance its sweetness. On the side of the bomboloni was caramel swirl gelato and a maple toffee sauce. The caramel swirl gelato was delicious, but the stand out was the maple toffee sauce. It was so amazing I took a side of it home with me! The ricotta bomboloni were great on their own, but dipped in the maple toffee sauce took it to a whole other level! There were definitely times were I was eating the sauce more than the bomboloni.
During the whole evening we really enjoyed talking to Michele. She answered all of our questions with ease and everything she recommended we took her word for it and were never disappointed. She truly made my birthday dinner special. The manager of the restaurant, Glenn, stopped by a couple of times to check on us and we hit it off with him too. Everyone at Casa Luca are genuine and easy to talk to. We found out that all three of the people we encountered that evening, Brandon, Michele and Glenn were all new to the restaurant and no one would have known by their knowledge, presence and confidence. Food is always important when you dine out, but service is also important and can make or break the dining experience. The food at Casa Luca was delicious and the service was superb! We cannot wait to come here again and try Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s other restaurants in Washington D.C. If all restaurants in Washington D.C. are this good then we are up for a treat!
1099 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
M–Th: 11:30am – 10:30pm
F: 11:30am – 11pm
Sa: 5pm – 11pm
Su: 4pm – 9pm
Christina + Adam