Yale Daily News

New York-based culinary artist Vincent Chirico opened the contemporary Mediterranean restaurant The Luke Brasserie on Nov. 17. 

Inspired by international flavors as well as his own Italian heritage, Chirico sought to blend traditional dishes with unique ingredients in an effort to cater to the diverse palate of the New Haven community. Coupled with the recent influx of new eateries throughout the city, those interviewed said that The Luke — located on 261 College St.  — is reflective of the city’s diverse and continually evolving collection of restaurants.

“[Our food] is forward-thinking, it’s inventive and it’s fun,” Chirico said. “The main ingredient might be familiar, but I’ve added certain ingredients that you wouldn’t expect.”

The Luke’s menu offers a fusion of Asian, French and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, although Chirico emphasized the importance of not labeling his food in an effort to preserve its widespread appeal. Following his move from New York to Connecticut, Chirico was intrigued by the diversity of the New Haven community and sought to cater to a wide range of tastes.

The restaurant can also be characterized by its approach to fine dining, incorporating sharing-size portions and elaborate receptacles for food.

“It’s not just ‘Here’s your appetizer, here’s your main course,’” Chirico said. “It’s a little more fun and interactive than that.”

Chirico emphasized his preference for “hands-on” activities such as cooking from a young age, and underscored the link between his Italian heritage and love of food. Though Chirico grew up in Brooklyn, he spent large portions of his childhood in Southern Italy, where his family raised their own livestock and vegetables — a practice that contributed to Chirico’s appreciation for “the freshness of food.”

Chirico’s preference for simple and organic food largely influenced his general love of “coastal cuisine,” which encompasses Japanese dishes in addition to Mediterranean ones.

“Growing up in an Italian family… food is one of the most important parts of your life,” he said.

Chirico also discussed Yale’s influence in his choice to open The Luke in New Haven. “With a university like Yale, there are folks from everywhere,” he said, referencing the university’s diverse community of students, staff members, and professors. “They might be likely to explore interesting food,” he added.

The Luke is just one of the many restaurants that have recently set up shop in New Haven. Others include Chacra, a Peruvian restaurant located at 152 Temple St., and Tibetan Kitchen, which features authentic Tibetan cuisine — both of which opened this fall.

New Haven Chamber of Commerce president Garrett Sheehan suggested that the influx of new restaurants is a positive indicator of the city’s economic health.

According to Sheehan, a historically diverse array of restaurants have contributed to the development of a New Haven “brand”  and reputation as an exclusive dining destination. New Haven boasts over 100 dining options encompassing a variety of international flavors, among which include Italian, Indian and East-Asian cuisines, and is colloquially known as the “food capital” of Connecticut, Sheehan said.

“We’re proud to offer locals and visitors a foodie scene that can do both — from the best pizza pie in the country to gourmet four-course meals,” wrote Bruno Baggetta, marketing and communications director of Market New Haven, an organization that seeks to promote business and tourism in downtown New Haven.

Sheehan emphasized his positive outlook on the future of the New Haven business sector, noting that entrepreneurs’ choice to open new restaurants in the city reflects a general perception of New Haven as a vibrant and expanding center for commerce. Baggetta also touched on the continually developing state of the New Haven economy, attributing recent changes not merely to new chefs and restaurateurs “planting roots in [the] community,” but to other newly expanding industries such as retail and biotechnology.

“A true foodie city, culinary culture is sewn into the fabric of New Haven,” Baggetta told the News. “It’s an unavoidable aspect of the experience here.”

The Luke Brasserie is currently open five days a week, from Wednesday to Sunday.

Natasha Khazzam covers housing and homelessness for city desk. She previously covered climate and the environment. Originally from Great Neck, New York, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in history and English.