The neon lights of are no more.
An upscale chophouse is taking its place.
Luca's Chophouse has been doing business in Grand Blanc for five years. Its owners are opening a second location at the corner of Tienken and Rochester roads in Rochester Hills.
"Rochester Hills is a great area, a great town," said manager Steve Gjonaj. "I believe we'll be the best steaks in town."
Steaks and more on the menu
The Luca's Chophouse Grand Blanc location has been voted Best Fine Dining in Genesee County for the past three years. It's also received recognition for Best Steak and Best Place for a Romantic Date.
When I asked manager Nik Gjonaj what Rochester Hills residents have to look forward to, he said, "Our all-natural beef, hands down."
The menu includes filets, porterhouse, ribeye and sirloin along with lamb chops and veal. All steaks and chops are served with zip sauce, parmesan mashed potatoes and the vegetable du jour.
"We also sell a lot of seafood," Nik said.
Nik's personal favorites include the restaurants' filets and Shrimp Luca, a dish of slightly breaded and flash fried jumbo shrimp topped with lemon garlic cream sauce.
"I'm a bread guy, so I have to mention our wonderful bread. It's served with our signature homemade butter with black olives and sun dried tomatoes," he added.
While about 85 percent of the Grand Blanc menu will be the same for the Rochester Hills location, according to Nik, they are also leaving room for the chef to get creative.
"We'll definitely add some new features that are Rochester-specific," Steve said.
But some of the most popular items aren't going anywhere: for example, the Sea Bass Santiago served atop sauteed spinach, wild mushrooms, asparagus and roasted corn.
Entrees range from $15.99 to $32.99.
In the family
Luca's Chophouse is owned by Luca Gjonaj and run by family members, including sons Nik and Steve.
"My dad worked hard all his life," Nik said. "He came here from northern Albania in 1973 and worked for Chrysler. When he retired six years ago, he wanted a family business and that's Luca's Chophouse."
Their expansion to Rochester Hills came when "the stars aligned," Nik said.
"We're fellow east-siders and we've been eyeing Rochester for two or three years waiting for the right location, the right situation," he said.
The Rochester Hills location, which is undergoing extensive remodeling, should be open in May or June.
"We already feel very welcome," Nik said. "We love it and we're happy to be here."
Luca's Chophouse will be open daily at 11 a.m. and serve a lunch menu that also includes salads and sandwiches.
Nik said they also plan to offer Signature Wine Dinners that are extremely popular in the Grand Blanc location. These quarterly dinners focus on one type of wine and pair it course by course.
"Hospitality is the backbone of the Albanian culture," Nik said. "And Rochester already feels like home."
For more about Luca's Chophouse, visit www.lucaschophouse.com