No matter the location, I am always interested and challenged to find good Italian restaurants. You would think it was the easiest cuisine to master and impress guests with. Stick with some solid and traditional pasta dishes, add in salads and classic chicken dishes (parmesan, marsala, etc), throw in some simple prepared fish and I think you'd have a winner. The challenge is that few places do this, and fewer do it well. Many newer Italian restaurants I've found have tried to distinguish themselves by adding unique, "modern" or other personalities that take away from the actual quality of food. I admit, I have not been to a plethora of Italian restaurants in Washington, but thus far I give high praise to Casa Luca for successfully pulling off both the traditional menu items and the modern twists that made my dining experience very enjoyable.
My visit was a few months back but I remember walking into the space and thinking there was a good and welcoming vibe with a well organized layout. Service was very good throughout and attentive from all staff regardless of who was walking by. The menu is also well sized with plenty of options but only a few in each category to help steer your decisions with the main focus on the pastas (e.g. two sea, two land and three "family style" choices). We went with two starters and two pastas, which might not have been the most adventurous or diverse selection but whatever, that's what looked good and if you can't wow me with pasta I'm not likely to return to try other items.
We passed up the breads/flat breads and "bites to share" sections in favor of a salad ("Cesar Salad" of Burrata) and small pate Crudo of Arctic Char (with salsa romesco and pickled vegetables. ). Both were excellent and I thought the burrata "salad" was delicious and creative.It's on the smaller side but maybe because I had to share and I wanted more. I would like to try the other starter options as well. The two main course pasta dishes were smoked potato gnocchi with a duck ragu and the fusilli cacio e pepe (served with burrata, basil and black pepper). Both pastas were well sized and portioned. Even though the pricing might seem like a stretch for a bowl of pasta I feel the ingredients used and portion size are consistent with good value. As for preferences, I was a huge fan of the fusilli. The burrata was delicious and the pepper was flavorful but not overpowering. I would order that dish again quickly. The gnocchi was good too but the duck ragu definitely stole the show. They should find a way to substitute out the gnocchi for a different pasta perhaps. It's good gnocchi but I find it to be more of a challenging pasta to eat a large amount and can take away from whatever sauce is included.
The nightcap was a nice small bowl of gelato with some fresh fruit and nuts. I can't remember the flavor but it was green and tasty. I appreciate their dessert menu because the pricing and sizing seem spot on. Not too much (on either) and just enough to leave a nice taste in your mouth. I like Casa Luca and have recommended it many times since my first visit. It has a sophisticated yet approachable vibe with good service and an approachable menu. The pastas we tried were very solid and worthy of a return visit. I wouldn't call Casa a mom and pop home grown Italian experience, but that's what makes it special and good.