All Things Italian
Meeting the power and inspiration behind Lund di Luca, the owner Martina Mohanty can be almost an Italian love affair. Full of life, enthusiasm and intoxicating humour, Martina is a delight.
Originally brought up on a farm in Germany her early days were full of adventure. When other children got a bicycle as a present for their birthday, Martina got a sheep she called Heinrich and a pony called Fritz.
At 12 years old she moved to London and attended the German School in Petersham. Love arrived at her feet when she met an Italian boy from Puglia and then the seed was sown. The passion for all things Italian had started, especially food. Summers were spent in Italy learning how to cook from a classical and typical Italian Nonna (Grandmother) dressed in black. Nonna had decided that as she wasn’t Catholic or 100% Puglisi then she should at least learn how to cook properly. Pasta of course, handmade Orrechiette (little ears) soon became a specialty, served with a piccione sauce (pigeon) which was caught, killed and prepared for lunch. Many times breadcrumbs were used instead of Parmesan as money was tight and Parmesan was expensive. Living off the land was a true learning experience and a source of innovative inspiration.
Working in the restaurant owned by her then boyfriend she met a waitress from Sardinia who invited her to join her for the summer. The love affair with the boy from Puglia ended at Rome airport as she embarked on her trip to Sardinia where a new love affair began. The choice had been a summer on the beach or to continue catching piccione for lunch. Sardinia won and she stayed there for 10 years.
Sardinia was a life of hard work and play too. Martina opened a bar in Porto Cervo. Whilst the summer was buoyant and fun, little money was left for the winter quiet. Food had to be sought in the winter and foraged. With friends she embarked on a new adventure of culinary exploitation. Porcini Mushrooms found in the woods nearby Arzachena, winter melons from neighbours and Wild Boar they shot themselves. Huge Cernia(Grouper) were caught by her boyfriend of the time. As they didn’t have any wood to use to cook it, they asked the local baker to cook it, and they all enjoyed a hearty meal together.
Time passed and more stability was thought about so Martina returned to London and took a job at John Lewis working in their catering operation. Building on her culinary experience she learnt more about the business side of the operations. It was also about this time the love of her life was born her son, Luca.
Around 2012 she was itching for new adventures and opened a little deli in Richmond which she called ‘Luna di Luca’. Weekends were spent serving 10 Course Dinners with foods from different regions of Italy. The concept of a ‘NO MENU’ degustation soon became extremely popular with the emphasis on home cooked foods. After two years Martina moved up to Friars Stile Road off Richmond Hill and a more formal style but rustic restaurant was created La Luna di Luca – Richmond, continuing the La Luna di Luca brand specialising in Sardinian Style foods and All Things Italian.
New adventures continued when Martina met Jamal one rainy evening when he dropped into the restaurant at Richmond Hill looking for work. He had come to London to learn English which at the time he did not have command of, nor could he boil an egg (actually he still can’t). He was eager to learn and enthusiastic with a good work ethic. Employing him was probably one of the best decisions she has made. He learnt to cook from her and has become an amazing chef, devouring and seeking culinary knowledge constantly. Now, one and half years later they have expanded to La Luna di Luca – Kingston by the Riverside. Both Martina and Jamal went to Sardinia to research the authenticity of the traditional Sardinian thin crust Pizza. Fish of course, a La Luna di Luca signature also features as well as the developed Pasta dishes like Ravioli with Langoustine and Linguine Aragosta.
This team seem to seek constant adventure and are worth watching and following as they continue to offer the traditions and finest of real Italian food. Keep your ears open for more adventures; there is even a whisper of taking Italian Food to Morocco one day.