Luca, restaurateur Frank Bonanno's destination Italian eatery that shares a corner with Bones, Mizuna and Vesper Lounge, has long been a favorite for Denver diners planning a night out on the town — and it snagged our Best Italian Restaurant award in the Best of Denver 2014, when it was technically still named Luca D'Italia. But customer expectations have changed over time, and younger guests want to feel relaxed and comfortable even when the kitchen is turning out top-notch food with elegant presentations. Bonanno certainly knows how to keep up with the times and as proof, he's just introduced happy hour for the first time ever at Luca.
"I want Luca to be approachable to our neighbors," explains Bonanno. "With all the changes in this area, all the buildings going up and young people moving in, it only makes sense to embrace a happy hour, to invite folks in to enjoy a drink over hand-cranked pasta for a really great value."
In keeping with Luca's dinner menu, happy hour will be geared toward food and wine aficionados, with $5 wine specials selected by general manager and sommelier Jim Herbst, discounts on Negroni cocktails and Moretti beers, and small plates from chef Eric Cimino. Think grilled boar sausage, a salumi plate, Bonanno's signature burrata and a few pasta selections, including vegetarian-friendly options — all at $7 or less. Luca's happy hour runs Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
That's not the only change for Bonanno's restaurant group, which now includes ten spots. Around the corner at Mizuna, executive chef Stephen McCary departed for New Orleans not long ago, so chef Ty Leon has been tapped as the next in line. Bonanno says he'll be spending more time behind the burners while training Leon over the next several months, and he has already executed an almost complete overhaul of the menu. With Bonanno doing more of the cooking, this will be a great opportunity for diners to experience the style of cuisine that made Mizuna's reputation in its early days. Leon will also be adding his own dishes to the menu over the next six months.
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Don't worry, the lobster macaroni and cheese is still on the menu at Mizuna.