The Luca d’Italia Cookbook

Listen Now

Chef Frank Bonanno has cooked up quite a career, with six successful restaurants in Denver, plus a pie shop and a speakeasy. But there’s a special place in his heart for his restaurant Luca d’Italia, in Capitol Hill. Bonanno says the menu is an homage to the Italian food on his mother’s table in New Jersey. Bonanno has put together a new cookbook of Luca recipes, including antipasti, like calamari with caper berries, pasta dishes, like Gnocchi, and even instructions on how to make your own mozzarella, ricotta, and burrata. Bonanno is going out on a limb with this project. It’s an e-book and, for now, only available on the iPad. Bonanno and host Ryan Warner prepare a dish together.

[Photo: Bonanno Concepts]

Sicilian Calamari with Caper Berries & Bread Crumbs

Serves 4


1 lb calamari

5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp crushed red chili

3 Tbsp capers

½ cup white wine

8 ounces chopped San Marzano tomatoes

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ cup toasted bread crumbs

8 caper berries


Sharp knife; large sauté pan; large wooden spoon; 4 serving bowls.


1. Slice calamari into ¼ inch rings.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in sauté pan over high flame. Add garlic and

peppers; cook 30 seconds. Add calamari, capers, and white wine; cook 30

seconds more. Add tomatoes and parsley; cook until boiling. Finish with butter.

Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

To Serve

Divide into 4 bowls. Top with a generous pinch of bread crumbs. Garnish with 2 caper

berries and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cherry Cookies & Cream Panna Cotta

Serves 4


Panna Cotta

15 amaretto cookies

1 cup milk

3 cups cream

8 Tbsp sugar

5 sheets gelatin

4 cups water

1 vanilla bean

Cherry Marmalata

2 cups pitted cherries

¼ cup Vin Santo

¼ cup sugar


Food processor or blender. Medium bowl; medium sauce pan, small bowl, chinois or colander

lined with cheese cloth, 4 ramekins sprayed with oil. One-quart pot, 4 dessert plates, serving



Panna Cotta

1. Puree the amaretto cookies in the food processor or blender.

2. Place gelatin in a bowl with cold water. Set aside and allow to bloom.

3. While the gelatin blooms, combine milk, cream, cookies and sugar in a sauce pan. Bring

to simmer then remove from heat. Let rest for 5 minutes.

4. Add gelatin to sauce pan. Pass sugary sauce through chinois to get rid of any cookie

bits. Cool to room temperature.

5. Pour into ramekins and refrigerate until set (about 1½ hours).

Cherry Marmalata

1. While the panna cotta sets, combine sugar, cherries & Vin Santo in pot. Simmer for 5


2. Remove from heat and let cool.

To Serve

Turn each ramekin upside-down over a dessert plate to release panna cotta. Top with a

spoonful of marmalata.


Makes approximately 12 ounces of cheese

Serves 8

A note: Ricotta is so very easy to make. Change it up by using goat’s milk.

A note on serving: Have your own homemade ricotta greet your guests in a colorful bowl on your kitchen (rather than dining room) table. Set a generous plateful of gnocco fritto or focaccia nearby for dipping or smearing across. Toss a handful of dried fruit (cranberries or apricots for color) into a couple cups of nuts and set them handily by as well. Easy, colorful and lovely.


2 quarts organic whole milk

5 lemons (1 cup lemon juice)

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup heavy cream


Citrus reamer; sauce pan; cheese cloth. Large bowl; stand mixer.


1. Ream the lemons; set juice aside.

2. Bring cream and whole milk to a boil.

3. Add lemon juice, buttermilk, and salt.

4. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring until thick.

5. Wrap in cheese cloth; knot the top and hang over kitchen sink (I hang it on the faucet).

6. Drain 24 hours. Use stand mixer to whip additional heavy cream into ricotta until it is the

consistency of soft ice cream.

Tasty variations on Ricotta:

Ricotta Salata

1. Instead of whipping ricotta with cream, form ricotta into thin logs or small bulbs.

2. Sprinkle with sea salt.

3. Wrap in cheese cloth, hang to dry for two weeks.

Ricotta Al Forno

1. Oil the inside of a ramekin, fill with ricotta.

2. Bake at 400° for 36-45 minutes until golden.

3. Let cool and firm.

Sweet Ricotta

Add 1 cup of powdered sugar into the first ricotta recipe.

¼ cup heavy cream to fold in at the end

(after the cheese has been hung)

Pinch of salt