According to many Southern Italian food, like that found in Naples, is considered the soul of Italy. The cuisine is rich and hearty, cooked with passion; recipes handed down from generation to generation. Chef Luca grew up in Naples and learned to cook under the tutelage of his family, his mother a major inspiration to his culinary career. But what inspired him to become a chef was the opportunity to travel and experience different styles of food from around the world and the challenge to constantly evolve with the industry.
Chef Luca and his wife Jessica always had a goal of opening a restaurant. With the move from Sorrento, Italy to the United States almost eleven years ago, their dream came true. Fort Mill, South Carolina became home to a small bistro, but after 8 years, they decided to move to Elizabeth Avenue and open Passion8. The move was prompted by the opportunity to really produce the caliber of cuisine [they had] been striving to execute all along, but which was not always easy in a glorified home kitchen.
True to Neapolitan cuisine the aim of Chef Lucas cooking is to preserve the flavors found in local fresh ingredients. We are inspired by different seasonal produce. This allows us to change the menu monthly. Supporting up to 50 farmers, the menu is based on what they can produce. With each menu Chef Luca starts by contacting the farmers to see what will be produced over the next two months. After receiving this information, I sit down with my team. We like to think outside the box so by sitting down with them, we come up with different dishes using many different cultural influences.
Locally sourced items come from North and South Carolina and range from leaf lettuce, apples, beets, sweet potatoes, parsley root, baby carrots, shiitake mushrooms, arugula, the catch of the day, hog, molasses, Georgia Squab, plus a whole lot more. With a list of ingredients that sometimes goes on forever, a typical day for Chef Luca is non-stop. He starts checking inventory levels and the product coming into the kitchen. Setting up the kitchen means creating the daily prep list for the staff. The list for the day usually includes butchering of the proteins. I make sure to have a line up with the staff right before each shift begins. During these line ups we discuss any menu or farm changes, as well as if we have any special notes for the shift in regards to the guest.
There are many challenges to being a chef – long hours and constantly being busy – but the most difficult aspect for Chef Luca is being away from his son. When entering the culinary industry you must be sure you have a devotion to the industry. Its not easy. You must be hard working; you must have passion and be completely devoted. One of his greatest achievements has been receiving the AAA 4 Diamonds Award three years in a row, as well as having been able to transition from a small bistro in Fort Mill, SC to opening the newest location.
Only open for a short time, Passion8 has received great feedback and outstanding reviews from loyal patrons and new guests alike. The ambiance of the restaurant, says Chef Luca was designed to maintain the intimacy of the bistro with small dining rooms. Each room has a unique feel and hopefully conveys a chic modern aesthetic. Clean lines and juxtaposition of raw materials, such as brick and wood add texture all while natural earth tones add a serene cozy feel. One of the most desired rooms in the restaurant overlooks the kitchen and allows guests to observe the chefs at work. Its called the Chefs Table, and is a most special feature for we are able to showcase beautiful ingredients paired thoughtfully with rare finds that make sense, all while [guests can watch] the boys in action. This experience makes for an unforgettable meal that is full of experimentation and inspiration that is the end product of over 40 hours of prep. What better way is there to dine, asks Chef Luca than with 10 of your closest friends or just your sweetheart?