While I have only been to Fiola, chef Fabio Trabocchi’s Italian gem of a restaurant, just once, I was elated to find out that he would be opening a more casual, affordable venue within the same square mile of downtown Washington. His trademark lobster ravioli remains one of my favorite dishes, but given the high price tag, I was hoping his sister establishment would be a little more reasonable for those just looking for a nice Italian dinner.
When we arrived for our 8:30pm reservation, the bar was nearly two rows deep. Whether it was the Friday happy hour crowd or people simply waiting for a table, Casa Luca was incredibly busy. We weren’t even seated until almost half an hour later – not the best way to start the evening, but we had a glass of wine while we waited for our table to be ready.
We started the meal off by ordering the Luca Antipasto Misto, a platter of prosciutto, pecorino fieno (sheep’s milk cheese), and a couple of small bites. The heirloom beets, which featured stracciatella and walnut pesto, as well as the lentil salad were well-received by our party of five.
And while we enjoyed the thin-grilled crescia, having to pay $8 for a small amount of bread for the table was slightly off-putting.
As for the pasta course, we decided to share three dishes amongst the five of us. All housemade, the bucatini was prepared with guanciale, tomatoes, and pecorino.
Meanwhile, the pappardelle was blended with Borlotti beans, rosemary, duck livers, and Parmigiano Reggiano – an interesting, if not slightly intimidating combination for those of us not a fan of all things liver, but thankfully it didn’t overwhelm the dish and made for an enjoyable pasta.
My favorite pasta, however, was the smoked potato gnocchi. Engulfed in a hearty duck ragu with a smattering of Cremini mushrooms, the soft, pillowy gnocchi perfectly complemented the outstanding sauce.
We also decided to split the Grigliata Mista di Pesce amongst the table, which was a heaping family-style platter of grilled seafood. It included bronzino, calamari, prawns, clams, and scallops and made for a great sharing dish between our group. The fish was impeccably cooked while the grilled calamari was excellent.
While the service was fine, my one qualm with Casa Luca was the prices. Given how expensive Fiola is, I had assumed that Casa Luca would be more affordable, but when looking at the menu, the majority of the pastas still cost over $20. And not only that, but the portions weren’t even that generous. In short, it turned out to be a more expensive meal than anticipated which was slightly disappointing.
On the flipside, Casa Luca also offers 20 bottles of wine for $28, a very reasonable price that helps offset the cost of the otherwise expensive food menu. It was a very good restaurant, but if Casa Luca were to either slightly lower its prices or increase the portion of its dishes, I probably would have left dinner a little more satisfied.