LUKE Bar & Restaurant
by: Joe Bellissimo
At the suggestion of a friend and neighbor, I went for an impromptu dinner at LUKE Bar & Restaurant on Ventura Boulevard. Not since my own family had operated the original Café Bellissimo just down the road have I ventured into that part of Woodland Hills for an evening out. All in my family tend to be loyal creatures of habit, so when we do go out, we usually opt for the tried and true. Fortunately, on this occasion, I departed from the routine and tired something new (only two weeks new).
The first pleasant surprise is that this too is a restaurant owned by a family. The proprietors, Lorenzo Hartzog (who’s own family started Opus Restaurant in Santa Monica back in the 90’s), and his wife, Sarah (a former entertainment industry executive) happened to bring their two young children out to visit some friends in Hidden Hills at the same time they were considering a restaurant location on Montana Avenue. They instantly fell in love with this area and with an eye toward a future move, decided to stake their claim to the decades old La Frite location. They stripped it back to its original mid-century charm and added their own contemporary touches. The result, phenomenal.. The ambiance, the food, the drinks… everything. At every turn it’s clear that Lorenzo and company have a passion for making a good impression; A dining experience for which we in this area would usually have to drive “over the hill” and into the “city”.
Not that there is any hint of a “too-cool-for-you” vice, the place is laid back yet chic and will never make you feel like your clothes aren’t hip enough. This balance of food, family and fabulous is all achieved under the direction of General manager, Cameron Markham, formerly of Farmshop LA and Marin. Partner Mark Lavelle, key in shaping the casual-cool ambiance of restaurants like Umami Burger and was also co-owner of Café Habana in Malibu, clearly has drawn upon the best elements from his years of experience to bring together a vision for LUKE that reflects the Hartzog’s values.
I wanted the restaurant to represent my vision for what I have always wanted to serve my guests, incredible food. Like I do at home – approachable with roots in classic comfort food, yet elevated and sophisticated. – Lorenzo Hartzog
Who better to deliver sophisticated comfort food than Chef Thomas Deville, veteran of eateries such as L’Orangerie and The Little Door? With the latitude to shape the men from square one, Deville has created memorable dishes like Truffle Carpaccio Flatbread and Apple Pie Nachos that are sure to become local foodie favorites.
Cocktails are both classic and creative. The wine list, at the direction of sommelier Elizabeth Blankstein, formerly of Salt Air in Venice and Animal, offers an assortment of wines both local and world renowned.
Admittedly, I write this with a bit of apprehension because I would prefer to not have to wait for a table, but the next time you are planing a dinner out, do yourself a favor, break free from your tried and true and go to LUKE.
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