Luca chef shoots for "the best we can do"

Story by Joe Stumpe | Photography by Michelle Adams

Gianluca Sciagata is a low-key guy with sky-high standards for food. That's why, on a typical afternoon, you might find the following in the kitchen of Luca: A big pot of chicken parts slowly simmering to create stock; trays of focaccia waiting to be baked; a pasta maker dusted with flour from the last batch of fresh pasta; and cheese curds from Wisconsin that Sciagata will stretch and pull into fresh mozzarella. It's a labor but in the end, I like the product a lot better,Sciagata said of making foods from scratch that most other restaurants buy ready made. It's the best we can do.

Sciagata's northern Italian background finds its way onto Luca's menu in dishes like grilled beef tenderloin topped with arugula and shaved parmesan; veal ossobuco with saffron rice; and soft polenta with garlic and fresh thyme. But he pays tribute to the rest of the country's cuisine as well with calamari rings and mussels, pasta with pesto and spicy tomato sauce, and entrees built around chicken and seafood.In Italy we have coasts, we have mountains, we have islands, he said.

Sciagata came to the United States for what he thought would be a one-year cooking stint at a Colorado resort. Instead, he got married and spent a decade in the mountains. When his stepdaughter decided to go to college in Kansas, he started looking for an opportunity here, which led him last year to serial restaurateur Melad Stephan, who wanted to open an Italian restaurant in Old Town Square. Stephan even named the restaurant after his new chef.

Life changes, Sciagata said with a smile. Indeed, it's a long way from Italy, but tasting Luca's food, it doesn't seem like it.


2 tablespoons butter, divided use
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/4 cup dry white wine
Pinch saffron threads
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan. Add shallots and saute until soft. Pour in wine and cook until almost evaporated. Add saffron and cook just until fragrant. Add rice.

In separate pan, bring stock to a low boil. Add 1 cup stock to rice mixture, stirring and continue to cook uncovered until liquid is almost absorbed. Continue adding stock, occasionally stirring, until rice is tender and most or all of stock is gone, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cheese and remaining tablespoon butter and serve.

Luca Italian Kitchen | 301 N. Mead | 316-262-3232 |

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