Life sure has changed for Domenico D’Auria. Almost exactly eight years ago, on the morning of September 11, 2001, D’Auria left La Guardia airport on a commercial jetliner headed for Orlando, Florida. He was one of the pilots.
Pretty fly: Former pilot Domenico D’Auria plans to open da Luca Café & Wine Bar in September. Manager Misty Cauble (pictured) will keep roughly 50 wines and Mediterranean grub travelling across da Luca’s copper bar.
With the benefits of time and distance, D’Auria cracks a bit of smile now when he describes the day’s chaos—how after getting word of the World Trade Center attacks midair, he and his co-pilot locked the cockpit doors and made an emergency landing in Charleston, South Carolina. How the passengers didn’t even know they weren’t in Florida until they got off the plane and were greeted by U.S. Marshals. How he was stuck in Charleston for several days, unable to get in touch with his girlfriend or his family in his native Naples, Italy to confirm his safety. How the voluntary leave of absence he was offered in the subsequent near-collapse of the commercial airline industry led to his decision to forgo a future in flying.
D’Auria, who moved to Central Virginia seven years ago, now spends his less dangerous days running a custom home building business in Crozet—Arcadia Builders—and planning for the opening of his first retail establishment—da Luca Café & Wine Bar in the Old Trail Village Center.
Having moved to the United States when he was almost 30 years old, D’Auria says he was inspired by the concept of Old Trail making everything within walking distance for residents:
“In Italy, everything is intermingled. I lived in a fifth floor apartment, and if we needed anything, we’d just go downstairs.”
When da Luca opens in September, the food will be sophisticated Mediterranean, more like what you’d get at an Italian restaurant than at an Italian home, says D’Auria. It will serve about 50 different wines from across the globe—“about 70 percent Italian”—with 20 or so offered by the glass, half bottle and half glass. For those intimidated by seeking help from a sommelier almost as much as by reading an Italian wine label, da Luca will have “wine books” with detailed information on each bottle so patrons can make an informed decision without revealing their ignorance too publicly.
With D’Auria’s background in construction, expect da Luca’s interior to provide a statement. “It will be a mixture of warm and cold elements—exposed pipes, some industrial feel but a copper-topped bar.”
Two special events this month: one charitable, the other quasi-charitable. For the third year in a row, the Farm at Red Hill in North Garden is donating 10 percent of its August sale proceeds to the Women’s Four Miler breast cancer fundraiser, which mom Wendy Harrison and her daughter, Rachel, run each year. Red Hill’s tomatoes, peppers, salsas and hummus are available at the following stores: Whole Foods outlets throughout Virginia and Maryland, Foods of All Nations, Integral Yoga, Orzo, Rebecca’s, Reid’s and Great Valu.
The other event is the Midtown Night Crawl on August 19 at 5:30pm sponsored by the restaurants along W. Main Street. The crawl includes West Main Restaurant, Zinc, Blue Moon Diner, Horse and Hound Gastropub, Maya Restaurant and Si Tapas. Food and beverages are provided at each stop for one set price. To make a reservation, call or stop by one of the participating restaurants. O.K., the crawl isn’t charitable per se, but we think supporting W. Main Street businesses, which struggle for your restaurant dollars over the powerful forces of the Downtown Mall and the Corner, is indeed a good deed.