Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano celebrates 25 years

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, January 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

Champagne luxe satin chairs surround cozy tables set with crisp, fine linens and sparkling stemware. Rough stone arches and pillars frame the setting while dark wood, gilded accents and bejeweled lighting suggest the timeless ambiance of a Tuscan trattoria. The syncopated swing of a jazz trio swirls amid guests’ subtle conversations, and Lisa Dahl breathes a thankful sigh. She is proud that “her baby”—Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano—grew up to be as lovely as she had imagined it 25 years ago.

Remarking on the transformation over time, the chef-owner said, “We had absolutely zero budget, but every time there was a little extra money in the bank, we did something to bring more beauty to the restaurant and the cuisine’s flavors.”

Dahl had left the Bay Area and everything she loved before planting an Italian restaurant on a corner in Sedona across the street from another Italian place. Nothing like head-to-heart competition. But the self-taught chef had a secret weapon—moxie—exhibited as courage, spirit and heart.

“It had to be Italian for multiple reasons,” Dahl said. “It was the ‘90s, and Italian was trending in spots one, two and three, but it was always my plan. Now, we’ve arrived at our silver anniversary, and although many things are bittersweet this year, we’re still commemorating all of the hearts and palates we’ve touched over the years.”

Dahl & Di Luca pioneered Sedona’s fine-dining scene and is celebrating that silver lining. Now through Jan. 30, a four-course, prix-fixe menu, priced from $65 per person, honors some of the most popular dishes over the years. The menu features an antipasti of the Caprese d’ Amore and Arancini, a primi of Ravioli Romana, an entrée choice of Vitello Picatta or Prawns Fiorentina, capped with a dessert duet of tiramisu and baby cannoli.

For pure pleasure, the star-studded jazz trio of vocalist Vismaya Hagelberg, bassist Theodore Sistrunk and pianist Ioannis Goudelis will entertain from 7-10 p.m.

Dahl feels an unspoken higher purpose to dining which also translates as community goodwill. As a result, Dahl Restaurant Group will be donating a generous percentage of anniversary sales to the Children and Family Services Center Foundation.

From the beginning, Dahl envisioned her cuisine signaling a shift in her own style—healthy, with a lighter flair to the traditional approach with a comfortable elegance. The restaurant’s affectionate nickname, D & D, embodies that image.

Dahl has refined the art of delicate, yet sophisticated, dishes, utilizing the highest quality purveyors, organically grown produce and wild-caught seafood.

“From a robust red to delicate lemon to cream sauces with a hint of truffle, there is balance in the meats, sustainable seafood and colorful plates,” Dahl said. “We have the freedom to grow the menu and work with the chefs to be innovative, while revering the classics.”

The Arancini are handmade risotto balls. Sweep the crispy morsel with a molten center of baby peas, spicy peppers and mozzarella through the signature sauce and allow all the sensory elements to collide.

New menu items also emerged in the New Year. The Chilean seabass is pure white, pan sautéed, topped with Gulf Rock shrimp scampi and served over primavera vegetables tossed in an orzo pilaf. The calamari steak is sautéed dore style accompanied by jumbo seared scallops with a white wine garlic, parsley and lemon sauce on angel hair pasta—reminiscent of abalone. Another show stopper is aragosta fra diavolo with chunks of Canadian lobster swimming in spicy Vodka sauce over tubular garganelli.

Dahl is a James Beard-featured chef and was named Arizona Top Chef in 2018 from the Arizona Restaurant Association’s Foodist Awards. With a strong commitment to excellence, the team consistently retains TripAdvisor’s fine dining spot. An expansive wine list, cataloging more than 1,000 bottles, supports the Wine Spectator’s Award for Excellence for the past 15 years. Alongside D & D, other Dahl dining successes include Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa, Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill and Butterfly Burger.

The soul longs for whiff of gala, so D & D encourages guests to strut their stuff with resort casual dress guidelines. Or dine more casually al fresco, where wrought iron and pavers coupled with statuary and columns form a classy courtyard.

“Our signature style at D & D is that the place gets better with age,” Dahl said. “It doesn’t venture from consistent quality, delicious food and upscale service.”

Old World charm meets modern romance. Come and celebrate, and then, come again. NAMLM

If you go

Visit www.dahlanddiluca.com for location details and reserve a table by calling 282-5219 or visit www.opentable.com/dahl-and-diluca-ristorante-italiano