It was a cold, wet, rainy day—the first of March no less—when I gathered my D.C. Bitches for a catch-up and planning session. Annie, our Social Bitch, and Amanda, our Baby Bitch, joined me for brunch at Casa Luca. We had a lot to get done.
You see, the Bitches turn five this month and we’re throwing an anniversary brunch in April, as well as a white party on the roof of the Penthouse Pool in May. Be on the look out for invites and giveaways in the coming weeks!
We schlepped in to Casa Luca, which is cozy and upscale with an attractive private dining room. The staff was extremely attentive and knowledgeable about all of their brunch offerings. Jamming to the eclectic music choices in the warm atmosphere made us almost forget the dreary weather looming outside.
Last year, we rated Fiola Mare as the best brunch of the year. So, I was excited to try Casa Luca, its downtown cousin—also owned by Fabio and Maria Trabocchi. While the brunch menu is expensive, there are two affordable options as well as a bottomless option.
The first option is a three-course prix fixe—with your choice of one appetizer, one brunch entree, and one dessert as well as bottomless beverages. A great deal considering the prices and quality of cuisine. There’s also Maria’s Light Brunch, a $26 healthy entree and mocktail, which is the dish Annie ended up having.
The drink menu has a variety of options: cocktails, mocktails, and fruit juices. There are three cocktails: A Sicilian mimosa (Blood Orange with Prosecco), a Gazpacho Bloody Mary, or sangria. You can order bottomless of any of the three cocktails for a mere $14.
Amanda selected the sangria, made with Donna Laura Sangiovese red wine and a generous helping of fresh fruit. The delightfully strong cocktail and frequent refills made for a leisurely brunch.
Annie ordered the Luca’s Derby mocktail, which was festive and light. The combination of grapefruit, ginger, lemon, and Angostura bitters made for a perfect Sunday sipper, without the hangover.
Feeling slightly under the weather, I selected from one of the two juice options. The Pera & Carota, was made with Italian pears, carrots, and cardamom. Rarely do I enjoy a vegetable juice—I much prefer fruit—but this one had just the right amount of spice and sweetness.
We began with salt cod fritters, served with a spicy citrus aioli for dipping. The fritters, or Baccalá, were served in a mini steel fryer with wax paper, which was a charming presentation. The accompanying aoli delivered just the right kick to complement the creamy filling of the fritter.
Next up, the kale Caesar salad, which was plated individually. This was one of the most delicious salads I’ve ever had. Seriously, I am unfathomably excited about … a salad. Baby kale and frisee was topped with crumbles of farm egg, capers, fried bits of bread, and shavings of Buffalo milk Barilotto cheese. The flavor profiles were incredible and the dish was incredibly satisfying, especially for salad.
We ordered the bread basket as I had anticipated that this bowl of carbs would be as glorious as the one I had experienced at the sister restaurant. This one is priced at a whopping $14 but still less than at Fiola Mare. With croissants, sugar buns, cinnamon rolls, and more, the basket was identical to that at Fiola Mare. Served with preserves, butter, and honey, this basket is perfection—and once you’ve devoured it all (if you can), you experience a certain sadness that comes with such a loss.
For her entree, Amanda had the Frutte di Mare with poached eggs, tiger prawns, Penn Cove mussels, and Middleneck clams. The bowl of seafood was impossibly fresh with just the right amount of richness thanks to the egg yolks. Luckily, the dish came with crispy shrimp toasts that allowed her to soak up the savory tomato broth.
Annie was so full from the appetizers, she opted for “Maria’s light brunch” option, which consisted of grilled flatbreads, thinly-sliced parmacotto ham, lombardy stracchino cheese, and a fruit cup. The cheese wasn’t quite spreadable and the ham lacked the rosemary flavor it promised, which was disappointing. However, the Greek yogurt topped with fresh apple shavings and grapefruit was delightful. It’s rare that a restaurant nails a seasonal fruit cup.
As is custom nowadays, I ordered the steak and eggs, which was presented atop warm, soft pieces of Italian loaves with a side of Hollandaise. The filet was sliced thinly, and served with pesto, broccoli rabe, sun-dried tomatoes and two duck eggs sunny side up. It was a really impeccable dish—nearly as good as that at Fiola Mare.
We concluded with the Bombolini, because if there are (Italian) doughnuts on the menu they must be ordered—Bitches 101. The Bombolini are Sardinian ricotta doughnut holes, a warm ball of fried dough filled with ricotta and tossed in sugar. Far larger than a typical doughnut hole, the Bombolini were served in a steel basket, so our meal really came full circle, visually.
The Bitches say: A. A solid, gourmet meal with a bottomless option. The brunch service is a bit over-attentive, and the music is a bit too upbeat for the space—but it was out of place in a fun way.
1099 New York Ave. N.W.
Casa Luca serves brunch on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.