Frank Bonanno opened his first restaurant, Mizuna, in 2001 and then followed up two years later with Luca (originally Luca d'Italia), named after one of his sons. Over its fifteen years at 711 Grant Street, Luca has gained a reputation as one of Denver's premier destinations for Italian cuisine — a restaurant on par with, if slightly more casual than, its sibling just around the corner.
But Bonanno recognizes that tastes change over time, and he's constantly looking at ways to appeal to new customers while maintaining his loyal base. So after celebrating Luca's fifteen-year anniversary on February 15, the chef shut down the restaurant for a quick remodel, reopening it a few days later to reveal fresh decor — courtesy of Jacqueline, his wife and business partner— as well as a new pizza oven in the kitchen. The changes give the place more of a neighborhood vibe while maintaining menu favorites ranging from the housemade pastas to the thoroughly Italian salumi-and-cheese boards, which are loaded with cured meats, including many that Bonanno makes himself.
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While this is Luca's first go-around with pizza, Bonanno has already had years of practice at Larimer Square's Osteria Marco, which is named after his other son. The pies at Luca are similar to those at Marco's, with a classic Neapolitan crust (thin and crisp around the edge and a little floppy in the middle) and toppings that eat more like entrees than typical pizza-joint combos. The wild-mushroom pizza, for example, comes sauced with bechamel, which would be equally at home atop pasta.
Bonanno says that it took a few days to dial in the new oven, but that the crusts are now coming out great — just in time for Denver Restaurant Week. Luca will be running with the same menu during DRW, which stretches from February 23 through March 4, and then he'll roll out something that will appeal to old and new guests alike.
The cocktail list already boasts classics from Luca and Osteria Marco's past menus, which are perfect for raising a toast to fifteen years, a major accomplishment in the restaurant world.
Next up for Bonanno is Milk Market, where the number fifteen will also be prominent. The project is a food hall, expected to open in late spring or early summer on the Dairy Block in the 1800 block of Wazee Street, with some fifteen different food and drink stations.