Hours: Sunday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 11 or 12 midnight; Friday 8:30 a.m. until 2 hours before Shabbat; Saturday evening, one and a half hours after Shabbatends until last customer
8 Mamilla Avenue
Stroll through Mamilla Mall to the Fox security area, take the escalator up one flight, turn right and walk into an Italian city square. Through the mirrored doors, walk under a sukkah effect with vine leaves overhead, past a show case with delectable desserts, and gaze around.
Up a few steps on the right is a tile floor section which seats 33 at small black tables or a round table in the center. Clever black lattice work covers the pipes on the ceiling.
The L-shaped main dining room, lit by wall sconces, boasts a fountain with running water in the center, tables for 69, and natural stone walls with colored tiles on the lower half. Trees with red leaves also add to the piazza effect.
A bar at the back has sparkling bottles and drinking glasses on glass shelves.
Up a few steps past the bar, you can walk on a marble floor through stone arches to a two-tone stone-walled room with more stone arches, seats for 48 and then arches to walk through to the large kitchen beyond.
In 2007, chef/owner Aviram Dotan and his partners opened kosher Luciana (pronounced Luchana, meaning "light") on Emek Refaim. In May 2012, the chef and his partners took the opportunity and opened this larger kosher, specially designed Luciana, in an Ottoman building attached to the Mamilla Mall.
The atmosphere is warm and family like and the staff treat the different customers from all over the world, people who live all over Israel and Jerusalem people like family.
Our hostess was Maayan Yechiel, shift manager for the past year and a half.
She started us off with the house bread, a delicious, crusty bread served with butter, olives and Parmesan cheese.
On the menu, there is one soup plus 13 appetizers ranging from 30-69 NIS and six salads (65-67 NIS). The chef sent us four of these to sample.
A warm, Asparagus and Zucchini Salad with lemon butter provided a contrast to the cold creme fraiche (46 NIS).The zucchini were paper-thin slivers, the asparagus was cooked just right--all garnished simply with wine-colored micro leaves.
Next was a "house dish," Beetroot Tortellini and Goat Cheese in a beetroot cream sauce (52 NIS). I love beets. I could eat them every dinner, while my companion cannot tolerate them. Besides the beautiful pink color, this salad was such a unique delicacy, he had two helpings and agreed the beet taste was very very subtle.
The Colorful Cherry Tomato Salad (48 NIS) featured different colored cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, balsamic vinegar, red onions and circles of goat cheese. The slightly salty goat cheese made a nice contrast to the cherry tomatoes.
The last salad was Mediterranean Sea Fish Ceviche (49 NIS) made with palamida. Minced radishes, coriander. chopped pecans, purple onion and pomegranate seeds were dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and placed atop toasted bread, bruschetta style, and garnished with a variety of greens. The fish varies from night to night ; the different ingredients were a great blending.
On the menu, there are: five fish choices (98-102 NIS); eight pizzas (60-63 NIS); 3 foccaacia (42047 NIS) and a children's menu with four choices (50 NIS).
Of the 19 pastas (60-74 NIS), the chef sent us two "house specialties." An amazing, Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli (69 NIS) featured ricotta and spinach inside, garnished with a very smooth and creamy sauce of cream, diced tomatoes, garlic and walnuts.
For gnocci lovers, the other house specialty was an unusual, Potato Gnocchi with Chestnuts and Mushrooms (65 NIS) garnished with leaves.This was contrasted with the dip of cream fraiche. For us, it was a special-tasting dish as I adore chestnuts, and my companion is a real lover of mushrooms.
Despite our pleadings to send us samples, the portions were all very large, and we could not distinguish which were samples and which were regular size!
Guests who have room and desire a dessert (38 NIS average each) can gaze at the mouth-watering, show case by the entryway. Each day, the chef comes in and decides to improvise, so this case changes daily. On this particular evening, there were 13 choices: four kinds of mini macaroons (not the American kind but French-style with two biscuits and a filling inside); chocolate tart with caramel, peanut butter and grenache of chocolate; lemon meringue tart with the meringue in the shape of Hershey's kisses; cheese cake; large macaroon with blackberries; chocolate mousse; New York cheese cake; chocolate truffles; eclairs; and tiramisu, It was a difficult decision for me since lemon meringue is my favorite pie, I like good cheese cake and find if difficult to resist an eclair, but we went with tiramisu. It was served in a glass jar with a gold-color lid, was very creamy and not ultra sweet.
There is an extensive liquor, liqueur and appertif menu with 38 choices and eight cocktails;a beverage menu with 35 soft drinks, beers and hot beverages; and a wine menu with 37 wines.
Service was very fast and efficient and the wait staff seemed very knowledgeable.
If Italian is your favorite food, as it is ours, you will have a very friendly, warm atmosphere in which to enjoy it and you will feel like you have just flown to Italy.
The author and photographer were guests of the restaurant.