Cooking has been in the family of 31-yearold Aviram Dotan all his life. The Jerusalem-born chef and owner of two popular restaurants on Emek Refaim is the son of the pastry chef at the Leonardo Hotel.

“I learned how to cook at the hotel from the age of 17,” he explains. “Then when I went into the army, I was a cook.”

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In 2003, when he finished the army, he was part of the seven-member Israel young chefs’ team that participated in a cooking competition in Canada. “We won the silver medal,” he says proudly.

A year later he and two partners opened the Joy Grill & Beer Restaurant on Emek Refaim, where he was the chef.

Wanting to learn more, he went to Paris the following year for a cooking course; and then in 2007 he went to Italy for a month-long vacation.

“I love Italian food,” he exclaims. Before long, he and his partners opened Luciana Italian House. The name of the restaurant means “light.”

Luciana seats a total of 220 in four areas. A glassed-in main floor area has wood tables and chairs, tile floors, plants, antique chandeliers and curtained upper windows; the ceiling gives the illusion of clouds. There is also a patio for private parties, a bar area and an outdoor eating section.

What makes Luciana different from other Jerusalem Italian restaurants? “Luciana is kosher, and everything is fresh. The pasta is made here; the focaccia is made here,” says Dotan.

He alternates between Luciana and Joy, spending two hours at a time at each.

“I am the chief chef,” he says. “I make the presentations, do the tasting and everything.”

The extensive Luciana menu has three business lunch choices for NIS 59, NIS 69 and NIS 89. The regular menu offers 13 first courses, as well as focaccia, salads, fish, pasta and seven types of pizza and calzone. A children’s meal is also available.

There are large breakfast offerings as well. Until Rosh Hashana, Luciana is offering breakfast with buy-one-get-one free coupons, which are available in newspapers and on eluna.com.

Dotan becomes very excited when he speaks about the restaurant. “I love the work; it’s in my heart.”

When he has any free time, he spends it with his wife, whom he married two years ago and is studying law at Tel Aviv University, and their oneyear- old daughter.

He spends the rest of his time cooking.

“My wife does not cook. She says, ‘I married you because you’re a chef!’”

In the future, Dotan might open a restaurant in Miami, Florida. “Perhaps kosher Italian,” he says.

Luciana is located at 27 Rehov Emek Refaim. Tel: 563-0111. It is open Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to midnight; Friday, 8 a.m. to the beginning of Shabbat; Saturday evening from the end of Shabbat to midnight.
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