Tucked away in a quiet corner of downtown Charleston’s Elliotsborough neighborhood lies chef Ken Vedrinski’s charming Italian eatery, Trattoria Lucca. Inspired by the ancient Tuscan city of Lucca, a place renowned for its olive oils, Trattoria Lucca brings the essence of Italian cuisine to the Lowcountry.
Vedrinski changes the dinner menu nightly depending on what the local ingredients inspire him to create that night, or what fresh catch the local fishmonger brings to his doorstep directly from the boat, such as seasonal triggerfish or black bass. The menu features Italian imported cheese and salumi, handmade pasta as well as the freshest produce and fresh seafood from the waters surrounding Charleston. At Lucca, one can expect innovative, delicate food that will have you longing for more days after the dining experience.
Diners will enjoy a modestly priced and diverse selection of acclaimed Assaggini (starters), such as Warm Cauliflower Sformatino ($9), Spicy Soppressata from Calabria ($9) and Gorgonzola Creamaficia (9). A variety of handmade pasta (pasta) such as Gnudi, Ravioli, Tagliolini, and Bucatini are tossed with both local produce and authentic Italian ingredients such as Cerignola olives, Calabrese chilies and Crescenza cheese ($19-$24). Piatti (plates) offers savory dishes such as local flounder, hangar steak, Niman Ranch pork chop, and Springer Mountain chicken ($21-$30).
Each afternoon, Vedrinski can be found at Lucca’s travertine bar rolling out fresh pasta for that night’s dinner – everything from tagliolini and cavatelli to bucatini. He tosses the authentic pasta with local produce and seafood from the local waters to create unforgettable dishes, such as agnolotti of fresh snails and credenza with wild ramp brodo, which was highlighted by New York Magazine as one of the top pasta in the country.
Acting as the restaurant’s in-house sommelier, Vedrinski hand-picked Lucca’s Veneto (wine list) to showcase a variety of his favorite Southern Italian wines, such as the Negroamaro from Apulia or the Piedirosso from Campania. He also secures hard to find wines based on relationships he has formed directly with the producers.
The 50-seat restaurant features soft pillowed banquettes and community style seating and has one of the hottest bars to secure a seat (the same bar Ken uses most days to make his fresh pasta).
Owner and Executive Chef
Ken Vedrinski is executive chef, owner, and sommelier of his all Italian seafood restaurant that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, Coda del Pesce as well as his charming downtown Charleston restaurant, Trattoria Lucca, both recently ranked among Charleston’s Best Restaurants by Zagat.
Moving deftly through an award-winning career spanning decades, and a variety of haute cuisine styles, Chef Ken Vedrinski found his passion and heritage in Italian fare. A three-time James Beard Award semi-finalist, he found his “place” in Charleston, a coastal city rich with fresh bounty from the land and sea, and a long way from land-locked Columbus, Ohio where he was born.
Vedrinski grew up cooking in his grandmother’s kitchen under her passion-infused, Italian-influenced tutelage. He was an eager student with such fervor for food that it led to his degree in restaurant management from Columbus College and a three-year apprenticeship under Certified Master Chef Hartmut Handke. His lifelong passion and career were ignited. Years later, Vedrinski was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University.
His first role as an executive chef was at the acclaimed Opus Restaurant in the former Swissôtel Atlanta, where his talent was quickly lauded when Opus was named “One of the Best New Restaurants in America (1991),” by Esquire Magazine. Chef Vedrinski was an early adopter of the practice and promotion of farm to table freshness as he heralded Georgia homegrown foods, landing him a spot on The Today Show.
Vedrinski also served as executive chef at The Restaurant at Woodlands Inn & Resort where he earned the only Mobile Five-Stars awarded to a South Carolina restaurant. In 2002, the restaurant received the only perfect food score in North America by Condé Nast Traveler.
Vedrinski then moved to Daniel Island, a suburb of Charleston, where he co-owned and operated Sienna Restaurant, his first professional commitment to exclusively Italian cuisine. Once again, Esquire Magazine took notice with yet another, “One of the Best New American Restaurants (2004),” designations. (“Were I award points in this annual restaurant survey, only Sienna would get a ten solely for its cooking.” John Mariani, Esquire Magazine)
Embracing his culinary heritage, Vedrinski embarked on food-fueled expeditions to Italy in search of the most authentic ingredients, olive oils, and wines. His journeys took him to Lucca in Western Tuscany, which he claims to be the home of “the best olive oil in the world.” Inspired by the beloved olive oil and his love for the region, Vedrinski opened Trattoria Lucca in 2008, acting as sole owner, executive chef, and sommelier of the charming Italian restaurant.
The downtown Charleston restaurant was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant, and Vedrinski was also recognized as a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef in the Southeast. With a devoted local following and industry acclaim, Ken Vedrinski, Trattoria Lucca, and Coda del Pesce are redefining Italian cuisine in the Lowcountry.
Chef de Cuisine
A long time and loyal team member of Vedrinski’s culinary staff, Nick Francis started his career with the chef immediately after he graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC. Coming from an all Italian family in Cleveland, OH, he grew up learning all of the intricacies of the cuisine and always wanted to become an Italian focused chef. He was first a chef at Sienna when it opened and worked there for several years before heading to Atlanta to work with the Neighborhood Dining Group. He did not stay away long, and soon was back at Sienna under Vedrinski’s leadership. When Trattoria Lucca opened, Francis made the move with Vedrinski and has been his right hand chef throughout the years. Together they continue to grow and develop the inspiring and creative Italian focused menu at Lucca.