MULVANE, Kan. (KSNW) – Luciano Mottola practically grew up in a kitchen, surrounded by family in his native Italy.
“We picked the tomatoes, we picked the peaches for the juice or jelly, anything,” explained Luciano. “Everything they have, we make at home.”
So running his own restaurant just makes sense, but he never imagined where he’d be cooking!
Luciano moved 5,000 miles from his home in Viareggio to Mulvane, Kansas. What seems like a world away is not so different to him.
“I’m here because I like what I do, and I like to give to the people what is a part of the culture, the Italian culture,” said Luciano Mottola.
“Wheat, sunflower, corn– we have that in Tuscany.”
So what brought Luciano to Mulvane?
A hometown girl named Nancy was teaching English in Tuscany when they met through a mutual friend.
“She doesn’t speak any Italian,” said Luciano. “I don’t speak English very well, just a little teeny so we can’t communicate too much.”
But over time..
“Bang! There ya go! Something happened,” said Luciano with a laugh.
They eventually married and moved back to Mulvane, opening Luciano’s restaurant in 2005.
Even now, the authentic cuisine of Northern Italy and the idea of several smaller portions takes some customers by surprise.
“In Italy, you have an entire meal, five courses or three courses, but it’s all like a little piece of each,” said Luciano.
It reminds Barry McEachern of his trip to Venice.
“It’s almost better than that, other than the canal running right through here!” joked McEachern.
He and his wife have become regular customers, along with many others.
“If we’re in town, we’re here about every Friday night,” said Terry Scroggin, a resident of Mulvane since 1973.
He believes Luciano’s is putting his hometown on the map.
“We’ve been in other towns, and we tell them we’re from Mulvane, and they’ll say, ‘Well, that’s where that neat little Italian restaurant is,’” said Scroggin.
Word is spreading, with more Kansans bringing other visitors to Luciano’s.
“From New York to Denver, from Texas, everywhere,” said Luciano. “I’m surprised. It’s like, Whoa! That’s wonderful!”
But Luciano has no plans to expand his restaurant or open another because he says he’s not in it for the money.
“I’m here because I like what I do, and I like to give to the people what is a part of the culture, the Italian culture.”
And a part of him, the family and food that mean home, wherever that might be!