It’s always nice when people read this column, but for this week only I’m going to suggest that you put down the magazine and run (don’t walk) to Luciano’s in Clinton Township.
Sitting down with Luciano himself to discuss his restaurant, it became abundantly clear that this place is the epitome of what a successful family-operated restaurant should be. “We make sure that everyone leaves satisfied,” says Luciano. “My family is here. What we eat is what we serve the people.” Of particular interest, Luciano made mention of the specials, which are always non-menu items. “Our specials are special,” he says, which means if a dish on the specials menu strikes your fancy, order it because who knows when it will show up again.
Since 1987, Luciano’s has been serving homemade Italian classics. Luciano’s wife, Rosa, has been working in the kitchen since the beginning and she still makes all the sauces. She’s even been known to work well into the night or early morning to make sure everything is perfect for the next day.
And to call a dish “perfect” is making a broad, sweeping claim, so I will not say Luciano’s dishes are perfect, but they are damned close. For example, the risotto marinara a.k.a. Fisherman’s Risotto is quite literally one of the finest dishes I’ve tasted in an Italian restaurant.
A generous bowl of masterfully-cooked risotto is covered in a lightly-spiced tomato broth. The risotto is topped with a cacophony of morsels from the sea – clams, scallops, mussels, shrimp and calamari. These aren’t small shrimp, either. “We use 16-20 per pound extra large shrimp in this dish,” says Luciano. That means each pound of shrimp contains between 16-20 pieces. To give an idea of size, 40-50 per pound are roughly half the size of the ones used in Luciano’s dish.
Scallops are U-10 diver scallops, which means each one is hand-picked by divers. Basically what this all means is that ingredients are of the utmost importance at Luciano’s. “We never skimp on anything,” Luciano says.
At its most basic, Luciano believes a successful restaurant has five fundamental characteristics: cuisine, price, cleanliness, service and atmosphere. To act as if these characteristics are easy to balance is ludicrous. Luciano’s has been a well-oiled machine ever since they opened in 1987.
It may sound needlessly pessimistic to say this, but places like Luciano’s are not as plentiful as they used to be. The age of husband/wife/son teams are becoming less and less prevalent. Near the end of the night, Luciano told a truly touching story of his battle with lung cancer.
About four years ago, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. At a time when many people would act defeated, Luciano took the diagnosis as a challenge. Throughout the entire ordeal (he beat it) – chemo and radiation, hair loss and feeling horrible – he still came to work every day. If that’s not a testament to his passion, I’m not sure what is. Luciano is a gem and so is his restaurant.