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January 21, 2017

New York Times spotlights Pennsylvania restaurant's 'peasant food' revival

Restaurants Italian
012117_LucaLancaster LUCA/Facebook

Lancaster's Luca is located in a preserved warehouse at 436 West James Street.

Just as "farm-to-table" firmly entrenches itself in today's culinary lexicon, one rising Pennsylvania restaurant is finding success by hearkening back to the trend's old world origins. 

In a feature for The New York Times' "Bites" column, Lancaster's hottest Italian restaurant makes a splash as it continues to lure patrons into a pastoral — and sometimes daring — dining experience.

Luca, a wood-burning kitchen that serves up rustic Italian cuisine, has been busy booking for weeks in advance. It's not what you might expect from a restaurant in Lancaster, but chef and owner Taylor Mason's dedication to cooking with fire has tapped into diners' hunger for naturalism. 

"We’re recreating peasant food that was cooked by fire all over Italy,” Mason told the Times. “You can turn your back on a gas stove and know how it’s cooking, but this is fully active — the wood is never the same, and the fire is never the same.”

Housed in a 1940's brick warehouse, Luca boasts a lively social atmosphere with outdoor seating, a bar and a casual vibe that plays up the sensation of a rural town junction to perfection.

The menu features a full range of salads, seafoods, grilled vegetables, beef, pizzas and pastas sourced from antique regional Italian cookbooks. You'll even find an exactingly prepared beef tongue, cooked over an oak fire, if you're willing to be adventurous. A full cocktail menu and Amaro flights accompany red and white wines desserts that include housemade gelato, sorbetto and bomboloni.

After opening last July, Luca is already looking ahead to local partnerships that will deepen its links to the Italian countryside, giving locals and eager visitors a place to experience the rites of the past for years to come.