Restaurant Review: Luca D’Italia


Date of Review: 9/34/13

Luca D’Italia is rated 15/20 on Gayot.  The only two rated higher in Denver are Fruition and Mizuna.  Both of which I have already reviewed.  I ordered the six-course Tasting Meal with the Wine Tasting.

Assaggini —  [Essentially Italian for Amuse Bouche] A Pesto Sour Cream Crostini.  Not bad, except it wasn’t sour cream.  I heard it described for other tables as a Ricotta Cheese.  So it was Ricotta not Sour Cream, which was not good.  It was a little too sour.

“Spoons” Course – Not an official course, but perhaps the best thing I had all night.  Described as each of the line chefs create a small dish on the fly.  The first “spoon” was a baby octopus with grilled frissee.  This was absolutely fabulous.  Octopus is generally a bit rubbery/chewy.  Not this one.  It was the tenderest Octopus ever.  EVER.  Second, “crispy pancetta”, basically a candied pancetta with a spicy after taste.  Absolutely remarkable.  Not as good taste-wise as the octopus, but very impressive technique-wise.  Third, a lobster mushroom risotto.  Really well done, but not as tasty as the other two.  Finally, a tomato soup with a parmesan Panini (i.e. grilled cheese).  The tomato soup was good, it had an earthy quality that I couldn’t indentify.  Maybe a beef broth.  And yes the Parmesan grilled cheese was every bit as good as it sounds.  [I had the 6 p.m. seating, there was a couple next to me, the husband celebrating a 35th birthday at the 7 p.m. seating.  They also got the six-course tasting menu.  Their “spoons” course was exactly the same as mine, except they didn’t get the parmesan Panini – this tells me that it wasn’t really “on the fly” so much as a course created by the line chefs.  Also, there is no way they just had ultra tender octopus just sitting around waiting to be used.]

Pairing — A lemon, mint, soda (think 7-up) with bitter liquor cocktail.  A very interesting drink.  It definitely needed to be mixed up, each sip was different from the next.  One sip was bitter, the next sweet, and the following minty.

 Bread – Herb Foccacia and Parmesan Breadsticks.  The “butter” was a salted parmesan lardo.  Absolutely fantastic.  [I got a refill, but never actually got to the second plate.]

1st Course – Venison Carpaccio.  Really tender roast beef essentially.  There was a Dijon mustard on one side of the plate that I missed (it was under some cauliflower) and really added to the dish.  Though I do think they added some salt there.  The result was a slightly unbalanced dish, with a salty mustard that was on one side of the plate.

 Pairing – A light Italian Red from Northern Italy.  Honestly, it was bland – no flavor profile whatsoever.

2nd Course – Seared Ahi Tuna with a squid ink aioli.  After my first bite I thought, “gosh this is a little on the salty side.”  My second bite didn’t change that opinion.  The server came by asking how it was, so I said “A little salty.  But I can’t decide if it is the tuna or the aioli.”  While I was talking I got the after taste of the tuna.  It was an extra dose of salt.  I asked to try another bite, to make sure that I wasn’t imagining things.  I wasn’t – there was even more salt in the next bite.  When the waiter came back he asked if he should take it away.  “Yes”.  I actually sent something back (perhaps the third time in my life I have sent something back).  They brought me another tuna.  I think they overcompensated a bit with the seasoning, but it was definitely better, the previous dish was near inedible.  [I felt better when I saw the couple next to me get their tuna that was several shades lighter than the first dish I was served.]

 Pairing – A Sicilian Red.  PR68.  Named after the road the winery is on.  The winemaker is a woman.  I don’t know why that was relevant, but the sommelier said so.  Ironically, it was the best pairing for the worst dish of the night.  It really cut the salt.  Had a blackberry taste to it.  Best wine of the night.

3rd Course – Orecchiette or ear shaped pasta.  The pasta was al dente.  I like my pasta a little past al dente.  Other than that, it was pasta.  Not sure what else there is to say.  I love pasta, but it can never really “wow” me.

 Pairing – A Riesling.  A good pairing.  Nothing exciting with this wine, just a good solid slightly dry white wine.

Intermezzo – The fourth course was palate cleanser — a watermelon sorbetto.  I’m not the biggest watermelon fan, but it was good.  What really made the dish was the candied watermelon rind that was on top.  Positively delightful.  Definitely a good palate cleanser.

5th Course (Main) – Duck.  Excellent duck.  But the duck took a back seat to the side dish – a fried gorgonzola.  Taking nothing away from the duck, all I wanted to eat was the gorgonzola.

Pairing – A Piedmont red wine.  Good, but not as good as the Sicilian.


6th Course – A flourless choc—NO, I AM YOUR GOD AND YOU SHALL BRING ME A CHEESE PLATE [Or perhaps more plausibly I politely asked if it was maybe possible if there was any way that they could bring me a cheese plate instead of the desert (or dolce) course.]  Honestly don’t remember the cheeses – A buffalo ricotto (not nearly as sour as the earlier ricotta), that wasn’t great.  Two other cheese that were very good, but I was so stuffed at that point I don’t think I truly enjoyed it.

Pairing — I actually had a choice between a sweeter dessert wine and a drier wine.  I opted for the sweeter wine since I demanded a cheese plate.  The second best pairing of the night.  A good sweet wine, but not a sickly, cloyingly sweet wine, which you sometimes get.


Overall, Luca D’Italia had higher highs and lower lows than Fruition or Mizuna.  The lows: a slight misstep with the tuna course and the amuse bouche wasn’t great.  The highs: The baby octopus.  Without a doubt the best octopus I’ve ever had, not close.  Nothing even would be 2nd or 3rd best octopus compared to this.  The Duck/gorgonzola was also excellent.

Rating: 8.3

 Gayot Rating: 15/20



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