Lucca Osteria & Bar opens its doors in Oak Brook
The owners of the new Oak Brook Italian restaurant Lucca Osteria & Bar knew they were taking big risks by opening right now.
"This has been the scariest two-plus years," said Lucca co-owner Steven Hartenstein. "How do you go forward on a project and open during a pandemic?"
Lucca has taken over the vacated Oak Brook location of Tuscany at 1415 W. 22nd St., across from Oakbrook Center mall. So Lucca also has to contend with more than two decades of memories left behind by its predecessor, which closed in 2019 (Tuscany still operates in Chicago and Wheeling).
"We're confident that we're going to get the people coming in, but we just have to have the right staff," Hartenstein said. "You only get one shot, so we want to do it right."
So far Hartenstein has been heartened after Lucca's opening on May 1. Hartenstein said the restaurant has been at capacity for its limited evening dining hours between Tuesday to Saturday.
Lucca takes its name from the Tuscan province where its chef, Claudio Ulivieri, grew up as a child. After more than 42 years assisting other Italian restaurants in America, Ulivieri is now in charge of Lucca's menu which is described as "rustic Italian cuisine with a modern twist."
In addition to pasta and Neopolitan-style pizzas, Hartenstein said Lucca's menu also emphasizes fresh seafood in soups to crudo dishes. There are gluten-free and vegetarian menu items, too.
Both Hartenstein and Ulivieri have grand ambitions for Lucca to expand. They hope to add Sunday brunch and evening dining in the coming weeks, and plans are afoot to open up previously unused patio spaces in the front.
"We're building them out to be really quite magnificent with all kinds of flowers and herbs," Hartenstein said. "Hopefully, you will feel like you're in a garden setting."
And if Lucca continues to be a success, Hartenstein said Ulivieri would like to add on a market space that sells pasta, sauces and sandwiches for casual diners.
Hartenstein is also pleased that Lucca's party rooms are starting to be booked, which he sees as a pent-up demand for people to dine out and celebrate.
"It seems now that we're opening at the perfect time and we're being rewarded for the guts we had," Hartenstein said. "We're so passionate about this project."