Photo by FujiFilmGirl, courtesy of Luca Osteria

Dish By DishMiami

The Best Dishes to Order at Giorgio Rapicavoli’s Luca Osteria


Giorgio Rapicavoli is no stranger to bold flavor. It’s what made him a champion on “Chopped,” but more importantly what drove the cult obsession with Eating House. But as an Italian American, Rapicavoli had always wanted to apply his intense take on flavor to Italian food, which he’d touched on with dishes like the famous Eating House carbonara dish, but otherwise hadn’t fully explored.

Then in 2021, he opened Luca Osteria on Coral Gables’ starry Giralda Plaza, and gave the neighborhood an outdoor Italian spot teeming with his signature intensity.

“I need to do my own thing and be different and stand out. And when I go to an Italian restaurant, I don’t want something dainty and pretty. I want a meal,” Rapicavoli told me while taking a break after a long weeknight dinner service. “And this is big food, I don’t think anything is lacking in flavor. And that’s what I’m about.”

The menu is a refreshing change from the sometimes-interchangeable lineup of Italian offerings in Miami, packed with dishes you’ve never seen before, like the tuna caprese salad and potato puffs covered in egg yolk and truffle cream. Giorgio walked us through his proudest creations and showed how to best experience his take on his native cuisine.

Photo by Jordan Braun, courtesy of Luca Osteria
Photo by FujiFilmGirl, courtesy of Luca Osteria

Tuna Caprese

The tuna caprese is the ideal way to start any meal at Luca Osteria. Not just because it’s light, citrusy, and fills you up enough to take the edge off your hunger. But also because it truly signifies Rapicavoli’s vision for modern Italian cuisine.

“The biggest faux pas in Italy is you don’t do cheese and fish. It’s sacrilegious, and I thought what would set us apart tremendously would be to kind of break the rules a little bit,” he says. “I’ve always liked doing tuna and tomato together. So I thought about doing all the flavors of a caprese salad, with tuna in its place.”

The dish starts with a base of fior di latte mozzarella and aged Kubota balsamic vinegar, then tops it with fresh tuna and basil. The taste is overwhelmingly Italian, where the rock salt drizzled on top brings out the fresh tomato and citrusy balsamic. The tuna holds up as a sturdy protein, with a hearty texture that serves as a welcome contrast to the smooth cheese and dressing.

As the balsamic vinegar absorbs into the dish, it catalyzes a subtle smoky flavor. And the further you dig into the plate the more prominent it becomes. The tuna caprese succeeds in standing apart from anything else on a Miami Italian menu and serves as a perfect entrance into the world of Luca Osteria.

Patate Fritte

Part fondue, part fried potato appetizer, the patate fritte satisfies both sophisticated diners and comfort food fanatics with its intriguing blend of flavors. The truffled potato puff dish is topped with Parmigiano fonduta and egg yolk, a call back to the carbonara that brought lines around the corner to Eating House.

“We thought about how we could do a fondue that’s finished with egg and cheese and all that,” Rapicavoli says. “It’s very much a tribute to Piedmont, eggs in truffle season, where you’d have maybe egg cooked in cream, or a vegetable with truffle. So that became the dish.”

The patate fritte comes with a show, too, as the server delicately spoons a golden egg yolk on top of the potatoes covered in cream and flecks of black truffle. The mixing process coaxes the egg to cook, and blend seamlessly with the other ingredients.

Unlike a typical tater tot, the golden potatoes have a crispy exterior which give way to a light, fluffy center. They’re kissed with black truffle, draped in a velvety Parmigiano fonduta, then crowned with the richness of egg yolk.

Short Rib Bolognese

Not that short rib Bolognese is a particularly unusual item, but it’s also a dish that’s open to interpretation. Rapicavoli’s take moves beyond the traditional, no-tomato Bolognese some old-school Italian chefs insist upon but doesn’t transform it into a meaty pomodoro like many Italian-American restaurants.

The short rib is slow-cooked to the point it falls apart almost like ground beef. The effect is purely intentional, as Rapicavoli says he modeled his meat method after Bolognese sauces in Emilia-Romagna.

“When I ate at Osteria Francescana, they did a take on Bolognese that was just meat, no cheese, and I found that so cool,” he says. “In reading the older recipes, I found they used to slow cook meat before there was really a grinder available. So we wanted to take that approach and start with slow-cooked meat.”

The short rib doesn’t overpower the rest of the sauce, where you’ll get notes of an entire garden of Italian vegetables. The Bolognese has just enough tomato to give the dish some acidity, accented with strong notes of nutmeg upon your first bite. This is an ode to the chef’s mother, who used pinches of nutmeg to bring a hint of sweetness to the pasta Giorgio remembers from his childhood.

“I didn’t want it to be spaghetti and ground beef, I wanted it to be a little different” he says. “I like the aspect of the braised meat — it carries the sauce well. And it’s all cooked for so long, everything just kind of goes away to create this miracle sauce.”

Photo by Jordan Braun, courtesy of Luca Osteria
Photo by Jordan Braun, courtesy of Luca Osteria

Pasta al Tartufo

For truffle lovers, no dish on the Luca Osteria menu satisfies like the pasta al tartufo, an enticing bowl of pappardelle topped with a creamy truffle butter sauce then topped with a layer of shaved truffles. It’s the kind of dish whose smell announces it before the plate hits the table.

Subtle it is not, as the sauce is a blanket of heavy cream that coats your mouth as soon as you dive in. The truffles don’t do much to soften the flavor, but do bring an earthy tone that smooths out the dairy. Mix the pasta up and you’ll get the full bouquet of herbs Rapicavoli uses to complete the effect.

There’s no point in just doing a couple of truffle shavings.

“This was a fun one for us because we get to adjust the dish as truffles change,” he says. “It’s a high food cost dish. We don’t make a killing on this one, but I feel like luxury shouldn’t be on a budget and there’s no point in just doing a couple of truffle shavings.”

The truffle portions are generous, to be sure, but the price can be reflective of that generosity. To wit, it’s the rare vegetarian dish that’s served at market price, and is occasionally off the menu if the right truffles aren’t in season.

Free-range chicken “al mattone”

In many Italian restaurants, ordering a chicken entrée from the secondi menu can be a mistake, opting for what is sometimes a white meat afterthought from a chef who specializes in steaks and lamb. Not the case at Luca, where Rapicavoli’s al mattone-inspired chicken might be the best option on the meaty menu.

It’s an herb-forward mixture of flavors and textures beginning with a free-range Pennsylvania chicken brined in a delicate blend of honey, herbs, and citrus, then marinated with Sicilian oregano and fennel pollen. The herbs lend themselves to an unusually crispy, flavorful skin that are more of a crust than an outer layer. Rapicavoli credits – or blames – this on the relative weakness of his kitchen’s grill.

“That’s the luxury of not having the most amazing grill in the world,” he says. “Our grill does not get hot, so it’s perfect for the chicken.”

The charred chicken is served over a bed of salsa verde with a squeeze of fresh lemon, parsley, and garlic. It is accompanied by a little gem Caesar salad that takes on a whole new dimension with a tangy cacio e pepe dressing and a subtle sprinkle of coarse black pepper.

Photo courtesy of Luca Osteria
Photo by FujiFilmGirl, courtesy of Luca Osteria

Panna Cotta

Much like with everything else, Rapicavoli’s panna cotta adds flavor in places one doesn’t usually find.

The ground vanilla beans are both visible and immediately obvious as soon as you take your first bite. The dessert is smoother and less gelatinous than most, with a sweet, nutty flavor that comes as a slight surprise. The caramel syrup coating the bottom of the plate is clean and natural, complementing the vanilla and almond flavors without an overpowering sweetness.

The cookies are about as moist as you’ll ever find in a gluten-free cookie, explosions of vanilla that don’t crumble like typical almost pastries. Rapicavoli says he swapped them out for the traditional biscotti so his gluten-free guests could get the full dessert experience.

“Before we’d have to tell (gluten-free) people, ‘Yes, you can have the panna cotta but you can’t have this biscotti.’ There’s no point in that so we wanted to make something that was completely gluten-free,” he says. “And they’re better in my opinion.”

He adds that the idea at Luca Osteria is that there’s no ego, and that however somebody wants something made, he’ll make it. That’s why the restaurant offers gluten-free pasta as well, and can make almost any dish vegan.

“The goal is that everybody has delicious food, and people like it and everyone is happy,” he says. “I think people realize we all really enjoy working here, and I feel like we have a good, neighborhood Italian restaurant.”

Matt Meltzer has been covering Miami’s dining scene for over a decade, as the former Miami Editor for Thrillist and contributor to Food & Wine, Matador Network, and other publications. He currently lives in Brickell. Follow him on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.