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Ask anyone in D.C. the gold standard of Italian cuisine and nine times out of 10 they’ll respond with Fabio Trabocchi’s Fiola, Penn Quarter’s upscale authentic trattoria. But the popular fine dining spot has a new competitor recently opened and equipped with a casual atmosphere: it’s Casa Luca, Trabocchi’s new osteria focused on the freshest ingredients and family legacy.

While the menu is as mouthwatering and traditional as we’ve come to know and love from its older sibling, Casa Luca’s experience is wholly separate with family-friendly, shareable dishes all perfected with simplicity.

“It’s certainly more casual than Fiola,” Trabocchi explained. “They’re two different concepts, two different identities, two different ideas behind them. Fiola is fine dining with a bit of another dimension to it. Casa Luca is the spirit of sharing and congeniality of every meal, very fine ingredients but very simple execution.”

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The importance of fresh ingredients began in childhood for the chef, when he would work with his father on their family farm in Le Marche. The two would pick fresh ingredients together, forming an impression on Trabocchi that would shape not only his restaurants but his ethos. In Trabocchi’s mind, freshness is akin to family legacy and he plans to share both in his new restaurant.

“Food is such an essential part of lifestyle for Italians,” he said. “We had a lot of links to farm life and the importance of fine ingredients and those things so now we use home recipes of the past, home recipes of today and home recipes from my extended family like from my wife, Maria, who is Spanish.”

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The name itself links farm and family. Casa, for home–in Trabocchi’s case, the farms in Le Marche–and Luca, for his son, linking to the next generation. Real family photos adorn the walls of the new spot; Trabocchi’s father on a motor bike, cigarette in his mouth, or Maria as a child, seated with her brothers.

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The menu’s focus on legacy is as delicious as it is heartwarming with options like the pork chop Trabocchi’s father would cook for him as a child (cured two days in advance) and the Maccheroni–which I was lucky enough to sample–a take on a traditional brodetto. The pasta dish aesthetically pleases, served in-pan and sprinkled with fresh basil leaves, dill and watercress, slick with fresh tomato and olive oil. Two shrimp lay seasoned atop a dish offered at both lunch and dinner (oh yes, the menu remains the same all day and night).

One bite and it’s plain to see how Casa Luca’s dedication to fine ingredients makes all the difference: the raw herbs add a lightness that balance the occasional meaty morsel of eggplant and robust flavor of the sauce. In short, it’s a perfect blend of tradition and simplicity that will keep everyone coming back for more.
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Frequenters of Fiola will be thrilled to know that Jeff Faile, fearless and innovative bar manager, created an approachable and unique beverage program for the new spot. Seven orange taps offer wines imported from Italy, a mix of reds, whites and prosecco–available in the USA only at Casa Luca. Those looking for bottles will find 10 reds and 10 whites from across Italy and Spain, all priced at $28. The cocktails are traditional yet modern, like the Cocktail il Palio, a 2:1 manhattan but the ice cube is Campari; as it melts it becomes a Boulevardier, a classic cocktail that actually predates the negroni (in print, at least). Let it never be said that Jeff Faile or anyone on Trabocchi’s team does not do their homework.

Casa Luca is open Monday – Friday from 11:00am to 10:00pm and on Saturday from 5:00pm to 11:00pm.

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