Fabio and Maria Trabocchi‘s newest Italian eatery Casa Luca, which opened downtown on Friday, is the restaurant they initially intended Fiola to be.
Fabio had wanted to cook simple rustic Italian dishes—the dishes he remembered from his father, a sharecropper, growing up in the Le Marche region in central Italy. But when Fiola opened in April 2011, Maria says the public demanded something different. Apparently, people missed Trabocchi’s long-gone fine dining restaurant Maestro in Tysons Corner Ritz-Carlton. “We didn’t want to do Maestro, and the times didn’t go for Maestro again,” Maria says. “At the beginning, we just wanted it to be more simple, and everybody kept asking for tasting menus and the lobster ravioli, so we had to give what people wanted.” The restaurant quickly became a hot spot on the power dining corridor, with prices to match.
But now, finally, the Tabocchis are opening the more casual restaurant they originally set out to run. “There’s no caviar, there’s no foie gras,” Maria says. (There are, however, truffles in a couple of dishes.)
Handmade pastas (all $16) are among the main attractions, with dishes like smoked potato gnocchi with duck ragu and cremini mushrooms as well as ravioli with ricotta, greens, lemon zest, almonds, and a mintlike Italian herb called nepitella. (Gluten-free rice or corn substitutions are also available for the pastas.) There’s a wide variety of smaller snacks and antipasti plus fish and meat entrees and daily specials. “Family-style favorites,” which feed two to four people from $24 to $48, include a polenta of the day, Adriatic-style mixed grill of fish and seafood, or grilled meats.
Some of the recipes actually come from Fabio’s father. The chef will serve polenta the same way he remembers it as a kid—spread over a large cutting board and topped with ingredients like tomato sauce and sausage. Meanwhile, Casa Luca’s version of Scrippelle ‘Mbusse, a savory crepe dish with smoked ricotta and hen broth, was served in Trabocchi’s household on Sundays.
It’s not just the menu that’s personal; the decor feels more personal, too. Photos of the whole Trabocchi family adorn the walls, including Fabio as a toddler, his grandmother, and his son Luca, after whom the restaurant is named.
Nine-year-old Luca is already taking after his father. “He’s in the kitchen every night,” Maria says. “It’s like three generations are combined here with my father-in-law’s recipes, Fabio executing them, and Luca learning how to make them.”
Casa Luca, 1099 New York Ave. NW; (202) 628-1099; casalucadc.com
Photo by Jessica Sidman