There’s a romance about Luca Italian Cuisine that’s hard to describe. It lingers somewhere between yearning and expectant, like the Yarek Godfrey painting of a woman in bed that stretches over the bar.
Since Luca Sema and his wife, Lola, opened the 125-seat restaurant on the Superior Viaduct in 2013, they’ve created an alluring mix of food, wine, service and ambiance. “Luca is like a small boutique restaurant,” says the Albanian-born owner and executive chef.
Which means its beauty is revealed in the details. Luca’s large windows frame the city skyline and Detroit-Superior Bridge as they come to twinkling, brilliant life. “Nighttime, it’s beautiful,” he says. “I don’t think there’s another place in the city that has that kind of view.”
And yet, Luca delivers Northern Italian cuisine that’s just as bewitching, whether it’s the carciofo alla aragosta ($14), a breaded and pan-seared artichoke stuffed with lobster and mascarpone, or the osso buco di cinghiale ($36) with wild boar slow-roasted for four hours.
The sacchetti al tartufo bianco ($30) tastes of amore — pasta purses filled with white truffle, pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano and ricotta cheeses in a truffle cream sauce and finished with a fig balsamic reduction.
Like the best love stories, the dish was a beautiful accident. Luca tossed the pasta in a bit of truffle soup, and the splash of balsamic vinegar was intended for something else. “It was delicious,” he says. “From there, it was my dish.”
In November, the Semas opened Luca West in Westlake with a rustic Tuscan interior and a menu focused on more meat and fish but still featuring many of the downtown favorites. 2100 Superior Viaduct, Cleveland, 216-862-2761, lucacleveland.com