For Luca and Jessica Annunziata, Passion8 is more than the name of their eight-year-old restaurant. The couple's work at their Fort Mill location was an expression of love, from their determined support of local farmers to the warm atmosphere created for a long list of regulars who enjoyed Luca's elegant fare.
This weekend, Passion8 grows from passion into love, dropping the "Bistro" from its name and moving into the upscale Elizabeth neighborhood. Inside the high-ceilinged space that seats 120 diners, Fort Mill's brash décor of lush reds gives way to a more sophisticated palette of earthy burgundy, sage and muted gold. The large area is divided into three primary dining rooms and an airy bar, plus a 10-seat chef's table with a plate-glass view into the kitchen. Curtains and partial walls define each section, lending the whole an open, yet intimate feeling. As Jessica noted, lighting is key here, and the gorgeous chandeliers add their own touch of decadence and charm.
The kitchen, while four times the size of the previous site's, retains the same focus on local sourcing and creative flair. Luca invited me into the enormous walk-in cooler, where he rattled off sourcing farmers by first name as he touched Swiss chard, squash and plastic-wrapped pork loins. Circulating in the dining rooms, bite-sized tastes of his braised pork on focaccia were among five treats offered at the media preview night. My favorite was the braised chicken with apricot and sesame presented on lettuce leaves, but the truffled shortbread topped with foie gras mousse and muscadine foam was a better showcase for the intuitive combination of flavor and texture that marks Luca's style.