Few things are as romantic as Italian food, good wine, and a sunset over the ocean, says Adelaide-born Swanson — the consulting executive chef at Luciano’s.
The Italian restaurant recently opened in the former site of Esca, which closed in March last year. Swanson started that restaurant himself some 15 years ago.
Walking into Luciano’s from the Marina, the ocean backdrop makes a strong first impression for guests approaching the front counter. The elegant bar is positioned to the left, directly opposite the open kitchen. Both bench tops are marble with Tuscan-inspired sandstone tiles.
“With an open kitchen – nothing can be hidden,” Adam says. “You can see the kitchen and the bar from anywhere in the restaurant. It puts the chefs on show, which they love.
“They can say hello to the guests, and it’s the interaction that food is all about — Italian food, especially.”
Born in Adelaide to an Italian family, Swanson opened his first restaurant, the award-winning Zucca Greek Meza, also on the Marina Pier, in 2003. Adam then went on to open Esca, which closed in 2019 after 14 years.
Today, Swanson is the face of San Remo Pasta, and has featured in numerous television shows, including his own series, Adam’s Pasta Pilgrimage, in which he travels Italy on a pasta journey. He developed Barossa Cucina in the Barossa Valley in 2017, and has more recently opened a chicken shop on Henley Beach Road — Cheeky Chook Eats.
When the former site of Esca was earmarked to become Luciano’s, Swanson was headhunted by the new owner to build a menu, handpick the kitchen team and develop the food culture.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Swanson says. “It’s all come back to my old stomping ground.”
Given its waterfront locale, Luciano’s interior design takes inspiration from the Mediterranean, with sandstone and white timber finishes, complemented by brass and marble.
Swanson has been working closely with head chef Loris Facciolo, who brings his experience from Milan. Like many of the kitchen team, Loris was discovered by the restaurant through a Facebook page, “Italians living in Adelaide”.
Facciolo and Swanson have developed a working friendship and collaborated to develop the restaurant’s signature dish, a house-made gnocchetti with South Australian crab, tomato, chilli, and mascarpone.
“Italian food is four or five ingredients on a plate,” Swanson says. “You shouldn’t overcomplicate Italian food, but it should be executed perfectly every time.”
“I was brought up in a big Italian community and the culture of eating lots and sharing meals. I wanted to bring that concept into Luciano’s. The whole food ethos is about sharing, sitting back and eating good Italian food and creating memories – that’s what food does.”
The menu, which includes a Tutto (feed me) option of six courses, is a mixture of northern and southern Italian fare, but with modern twists.
The pizza is a light and fluffy base with a puffy crust. The dough is allowed to rise for at least 48 hours and cooked in the hand-built pizza oven.
Having run restaurants on the Marina for years, Swanson understands the value of the location.
“There are sunsets, but I’ve watched some amazing storms here in Glenelg. To sit here with a glass of red and a nice plate of pasta watching the lightning storms come off the ocean is unreal.”