Cantinetta Luca

Cantinetta Luca Front Room
Cantinetta Luca Back Room



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Accolades & Reviews


Best of Monterey County Reader's Poll

Voted "Best Restaurant in Carmel"

2008-2012-Monterey County Reader's Poll


March 2012

With Jason Balestrieri as partner and chef busting out house-cured salumi plates and hand-crafted pastas like the pappardelle alla bolognese— a decadent housemade egg yolk pasta with a traditional sauce consisting of ground salumi, veal and beef with tomatoes, white wine, porcini mushrooms and sage—this hallmark could win for best Italian. Instead it wins in a more competitive category: Best in 1-million-restaurants-per-capita Carmel. That tells you how good the Italian wine selection—and the grilled octopus! The oozing fresh burrata cheese! The bianca pizza! The chestnut rigatone!—really is. The urban buzz, authentic old-world eats and the wonderful Italian-born general manager Emanuelle Bartolini in the front of the house makes you forget where you are, and to remember to keep coming back.

March 2010
It’s the gorgonzola prosciutto olive in the Cavallivodka Luca Tini. It’s the house-cured artisan bresaola and salame cotto hanging by the bar. It’s the casual pizza counter— try the “bianca”—and the sumptuously big-city open spaces. It’s the stozapreti with housemade sausage, the arrosto di pollo that’s vacuum-sealed to elevate juiciness, and the braised Colorado lamb shank with Taffiasca olives and fresh rosemary. It’s the endless racks of carefully curated Italian wines ringing the inviting back room. It’s the Dolores location. It’s the great bartender. It’s the general buzz about it. It’s the bomb.


March 2009

March 2008
"This hip, city style casual Italian eatery erupted onto the spot where Toots Lagoon used to reign during the 1980s, reincarnating with the same high energy and magnetic appeal. Redesigned by wife Kathleen, this David Fink creation matches fresh hand-crafted Italian specialties like wood-oven-fired pizzas, home-cured salamis, pasta dishes and seasonal specialties with an extensive all-Italian wine list offering tastes, glasses and bottles from across every region in Italy. Add a full, lively bar scene, friendly staff and local buzz that won't quit and you've got the hottest—and the best restaurant in Carmel."



Feeling Cured: Salumeria Luca unfurls an impressive assemblage of Italian charcuterie, sandwiches and other treats.
by Nic Coury

Feeling Cured: Salumeria Luca unfurls an impressive assemblage of Italian charcuterie, sandwiches and other treats.
by Ulia Zettie, MC Weekly, December 22, 2011


The first I heard of Salumeria Luca was from a friend who bought her father a salami sandwich for his birthday. He promptly reported that it transported him back to his native Italy with the first bite. I knew with similar immediacy that I had to compare Luca against the high salumeria standards I developed tasting my way through Rome. 


Traditionally a salumeria is more than a butcher shop. It’s an Italian deli that carries fine, artisanal charcuterie like prosciutto, salami, bologna, mortadella and beef bresaola. Carmel recently gained its only traditional Italian salumeria when Luca opened right next door to its sister Italian restaurant Cantinetta Luca on Dolores Avenue, where riches like imported Italian salume, Chef Jason Balestrieri’s house made sausages and cheeses, carefully curated wines, fresh pasta, fresh baked bread and shelves full of Italian grandmother’s favorite pantry items reside. 


Luca’s modern, clean lines of red and black differ dramatically from the dusky, ancient Rome treasure shops I’ve experienced. The walls here are lined with everything edible and Italian, with a focus on organic, from imported olive oils from various regions to interesting honey vinegars like chestnut and honey dew ($12.75), fig spreads ($5.99), Italian truffle salts ($14.99), mountain lentils ($3.99-$4.99) and pasta of all shapes. Emanuele Bartolini, the knowledgeable and native Italian general manager of both the restaurant and deli, popped in and out through the door between the two places, juggling responsibility like a well-olive-oiled machine. He knew all of the oils, and the regions for each, personally – one was just two miles from his hometown in Florence. Between his adorable accent and contagious passion he added a very authentic touch to the experience. 


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By Elaine Giuliano, Edible Monterey, December 2011


Local lovers of all things porcine gathered last Friday at Cantinetta Luca in Carmel for Chef Jason Balestrieri’s La Maialata IV: Celebration of the Pig. Maialata means pork festival in Italian, and for one evening only, Chef Balestrieri hosted a revelry dedicated to the many succulent delights we owe to the pig.


The evening started with a flight of three Italian wines selected by sommelier Bernabe De Luna for the occasion. One of the most notable was the Kellerei Terlan “Terlaner” Alto Adige 2010, a proprietary blend of pinot bianco, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc with a great balance of spice, fruit and acid, as well as a crisp finish.


The wine paired beautifully with a bruschetta with pork liver, caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar. The very generous serving of liver was rich and velvety but still somewhat chunky, maintaining the integrity of both texture and pork flavor.


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Cantinetta Luca's delicious La Maialata pig dinner happens only one night a year

Cantinetta Luca's delicious La Maialata pig dinner happens only one night a year

By Raul N., Monterey Herald, December 15, 2011


For one night only, the menu at Cantinetta Luca is filled with pork, pig and hog. Everything on the menu — from starters to salads, entrees to side dishes — featured pork.


We started with a couple appetizers. The arancini — fried risotto balls filled with speck, leeks, thyme and Fontina (five for $6) — were excellent.


The golden nuggets were filled with savory cheese and a bite of salty ham. We devoured these tasty bites so fast, I was tempted to order a second batch, but exercised restraint knowing more pork delights would be coming along shortly.


The carpaccio — sliced sweet capicola, topped with rucola, lemon and shaved Parmesan ($10) — was flavorful. The bitter rucola (arugula) and tart lemon offered a nice contrast to the cured meat.


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The arrival of fall means pumpkin and squash galore at many restaurants

The arrival of fall means pumpkin and squash galore at many restaurants

by Raul N., Monterey Herald, November 3, 2011


Fall is probably my favorite season for food. As soon as the calendar flips to October, my mouth starts watering. The arrival of fall means pumpkin and squash galore at many restaurants.


After traveling for most of October, when I finally settled back into town this past weekend, a single thought was going through my mind: I must get some pumpkin ravioli.


The calling was too strong to resist, and I ventured into Carmel this weekend, joining my friend for a fall feast at Cantinetta Luca — famous around town for its pumpkin ravioli.


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Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle
Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

Carmel and Monterey make their mark on fine dining

by Michael Bauer, SF Chronicle Restaurant Critic, September 18, 2011

Opened in 2006, Cantinetta Luca quickly became the best place to go for casual, well-prepared Italian-inspired food. Chef Jason Balestrieri offers all the right things - burrata cheese ($9), arancini ($6), excellent pizza ($13-$16), house-made pastas and beautifully roasted meats and fish ($22-$29).

One of the chef's main loves is salumi. In fact, beside the open kitchen he has a salumi room, which led to his next big idea.

In August, the restaurant expanded next door with Salumeria Luca, a takeout deli and bakery. As with the restaurant, the offerings change seasonally, but now Balestrieri has a venue to sell his prosciutto, house-made cheeses and other handiwork. The restaurant also offers grilled panini and other items that can be taken away for a picnic.

In addition, you can buy pizza dough, olive oils, pasta sauce and pastas, and even some hand-cut steaks.


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Brown's Best

Brown's Best


" From the open kitchen Executive Chef Jason Balestrieri sent to my table in the window (one of the quieter corners) some really impressive dishes, offering superb ingredients, simply prepared to emphasize their bold, direct flavours. Prosciutto with organic figs and melon was first class. (Cantinetta Luca offers some really good prepared meats, which are cured in-house.) Tagliolini with peas, pancetta, sun-dried tomatoes and melted shallots was everything you would want in an Italian restaurant. The main course was half a chicken, roasted with lemon and rosemary and brought to the table in a red pot. With servings of spinach and broccoli, this was a dish for an enthusiastic trencherman. My pudding was strawberries with vanilla panna cotta, balsamic vinegar and black pepper. "


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2012 Hot 10 Monterey/Carmel Restaurants 
Top 10 Monterey/Carmel Food Rating Restaurants


  • With a strikingly modern décor and a team of well-informed staff led by charming general manager Giuseppe Panzuto, Cantinetta Luca is a casual yet elegant endeavor by restaurateur David Fink. House-cured salumi shaved paper-thin, some studded with fennel or peppercorns, are best paired with soft, silky burrata and crostini. Chef Jason Balestrieri’s expertise and Italian heritage shine through in the rest of the menu: grilled octopus on a bed of warm potatoes and peppery Calabrese salame; tiny shrimp that dance around delicate strands of fettuccine nero; and chanterelle risotto that is pure comfort. Meat, poultry and whole roasted fish are served family-style; we suggest the daily fresh catch such as roasted local rockfish, skillfully dissected at the table and left to bathe in melted fennel and lemon oil. The all-Italian wine list contains gems such as Falanghina and Moscato D'Asti, the latter harmonizing with a dolcetto of house-made banana-Nutella gelato. If in season, make a beeline for the creamy pumpkin budino.




36 Hours in Carmel-by-the-Sea

36 Hours in Carmel-by-the-Sea
by Jaime Gross, New York Times, January 21, 2009

"Eat Like a European: Also worth a try is Cantinetta Luca,  a two-year old Italian restaurant popular for its wood-fired pizzas, homemade pastas, all-Italian wine list and a dozen types of salume aged on site in a glass-walled curing room..."




Where to Eat

by Christopher Reynolds,  Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2007


This is the newest of the eateries listed here (it opened in late 2006), and it delivered the best meal of my visit: a risotto made with chanterelle mushrooms from Big Sur. A busy dining room wraps around a shapely bar, with a small counter in back overlooking the kitchen action. Prices up to $64, which buys a 24-ounce Florentine-style T-bone. Lunch and dinner.





Eat Here Now - The tables to book in your favorite places around the world, Travel & Leisure - January 2007

"Cantinetta Luca: Brick walls, soaring beamed ceilings, and a mammoth wood oven. Must order grilled baby leeks with parsley-pancetta vinaigrette.




Cantinetta Luca brings youthful, big-city, classic Italian vibe to Carmel

Cantinetta Luca brings youthful, big-city, classic Italian vibe to Carmel
by Mark Anderson, MC Weekly, November 6, 2006


The symptoms—razor-thin meats melting on the tongue, hip ambiance crackling throughout the parlor and Italian Chianti charming the palate—make the diagnosis easy: I’m cured. The same goes for the Breasola salami—it’s cured in house. And that delicacy, the atmosphere and the other authentic Italian epicurea at Cantinetta Luca do have healing powers: Bring what ails you, emerge satiated and enlivened.


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Dinner: Sunday - Thursday from 5 to 9:00 pm, Friday - Saturday from 5 to 10 pm
Dolores Street between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea  |  831.625.6500



The pure flavors of great Italian food in a casual, modern setting.