Here’s What You’ll Be Eating at Fabio Trabocchi’s Casa Luca (Photos and Menu)

A casual trattoria from the chef/owner of Fiola debuts in Penn Quarter.

At Casa Luca, all pastas are extruded in-house. Here, campanelle mixes with prawns, shellfish broth, and spicy, garlicky eggplant. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Chef Fabio Trabocchi is best known in Washington for reigning over the upper echelons of Italian fine dining—first with Maestro in Tysons Corner, now closed, and currently at Fiola. At the latter, anniversary dinners are a near-nightly occasion and entrées can run as high as $56 (for a dry-aged T-bone with rosemary zabaglione). Fans of Fiola hack the system by perching at the bar and splitting one of the decadently rich appetizers and pastas, but now they have a second option: Trabocchi and his team have debuted a 136-seat osteria with a casual approach. Welcome, Casa Luca, Trabocchi’s own brand of family-driven Italian. 

The inspiration stems from Trabocchi’s childhood in Le Marche, Italy, his wife, Maria’s upbringing in Mallorca, Spain, and the family they’ve created with their daughter and their nine-year-old son, Luca, for whom the restaurant is named. Luca has reportedly showed an early eagerness to work in the kitchen, spending weekend evenings fashioning ricotta-filled bomboloni at Fiola alongside pastry chef Tom Wellings; he will apprentice in the new restaurant’s kitchen, as well. Trabocchi says his son’s desire to learn about food and work alongside adults reflects his own—Trabocchi’s father, a former sharecropper, took young Fabio along to numerous farms and markets to supply the family’s weekly meals.

The all-day menu draws from the rustic flavors of Le Marche—think fresh-made bucatini with cured pork jowl and savory crepes stuffed with smoked ricotta and sauced with a rich hen broth. To make the More Giuseppe braciola, a dish Trabocchi’s father often cooked on Sundays, the chef marinates pork chops in orange, dill, rosemary, and garlic before searing them over wood-fired flames. Spanish-leaning options include cozze Alicia—spicy mussels with peppers and tomatoes, inspired by Maria’s mother. You might start off with a miniature version of the Parmesan-and-pecorino-stuffed cheese breads sold during Easter in Italy, or the grilled flatbread crescia, an ideal vehicle for the many cured meats and cheeses. Another market inspiration: thick slabs of porchetta seasoned with dill branches—a local stand-in for Italy’s wild fennel stalks—sold here on Thursday as one of the daily specials.

While most items on the menu can be shared, the extensive lineup of antipasti and “family-style favorites”—dishes such as mixed grills of seafood or meats served for two or four—are designed for splitting. The convivial lineup extends to the drinks. An extensive lineup of Italian wines, from Prosecco to Sangiovese, is available on draft by the glass o carafe, with the most expensive tapping out at $25. Equally affordable is a section of 20 wines all priced at $28. “Cellar selections” are on hand for bigger spenders, though only a handful of bottles near the $100 range. Fiola barman Jeff Faile is behind the cocktails here as well, and will serve you a seasonal specialty such as a summery combination of tequila, St. Germain, and chili-infused Aperol. His famous Negronis promise to be a big hit here, too.

Casa Luca. 1099 New York Ave., NW (entrance on 11th St.); 202-628-1099. Open Monday through Thursday 11 to 10, Friday 11 to 11, and Saturday 5 to 11; closed Sunday.

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.