Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Noshing Around Tucson-Terra Cotta Closing Jan. 31

Wow! Tucson’s Terra Cotta restaurant is closing January 31. It has been around for 22 years and raised the bar for Southwest fine dining.

I wasn’t living in Tucson at the time but remember going there when I visited and of course, many times since I have lived here. The Luria family are great people and the community will miss them.

My friend Lee is coming to visit in a few weeks and said he wanted to go there as he has dined at Terra Cotta on his many business trips to Tucson over the years. Good thing he is coming while it’s still open.

Here’s the press release, verbatim:

The Original “Original”  Says Goodbye

Tucson, AZ—–A sad decision was made this week by one of Tucson’s leading culinary families.  After a hugely successful 22 year run, the Luria Family – owners of Terra Cotta – have decided to close the award winning restaurant.  The standard bearer for Southwest style cuisine, Café Terra Cotta (as it was called originally) was  founded in 1986 by Don Luria and wife Donna Nordin, internationally renowned chef who helped bring culinary fame and style to Tucson.

From her delectable flourless chocolate cake gracing the cover of Bon Apetit magazine in December 1980 to the popular Terra Cotta cookbook, Nordin has lead the way in many areas – both as a female chef in a male dominated industry, and an expert on the foods and flavors of the southwest.

Although Luria and Nordin have stayed very involved since then, the day to day operations of Terra Cotta have been ably managed by son Michael Luria and his wife Maya since 2001. “ With the economy in the state it is, it has become a daily challenge financially to maintain our uncompromising standards of using the finest ingredients and to keep up with the high overhead of operating the restaurant”, said Michael Luria. “We have had a really good run. We will always be so grateful for the loyalty this community has shown us.  Of course our loyalty to them will not end. We will continue to be very involved in the things we love that make Tucson unique – such as the various non profits and arts organizations that we are all involved in.

In addition to taking these next few weeks to personally say goodbye to our many local guests, we will also be working with our staff to help them find work at other fine restaurants in Tucson.  We will also assist those groups that have booked parties with Terra Cotta in their efforts to re book at other restaurants. The last official day for local fans to get their fix of their Terra Cotta favorites will be Jan 31.   Until then, the restaurant will be open nightly from 4 p.m.  For reservations please call 520-577-8100.

Email sent to loyal Terra Cotta fans on Jan 10th :

Dear Friends,

It is with mixed  emotions that we write to you today to share  the news that after a  tremendous 22 years of serving our friends, neighbors and guests from  near and  far,  Terra Cotta will close its doors on Saturday, January 31st.   Like so many other businesses, the current economic climate has taken its toll on us too and we can no longer continue on.

On behalf of the Luria and Nordin families, we want to express our gratitude to you, our valued guests, who  have afforded us the opportunity to pursue our passion these last 22  years.  It has been an honor and privilege to open our doors each night and  do our best in providing you with a unique Southwestern dining  experience.   We would be remiss if we didn’t also acknowledge and thank  the many talented staff that have worked with us over the years in creating and serving the  wonderful cuisine  that made Terra Cotta the success that it was.  Lastly, we want to thank our many vendors (partners really, many of whom are local businesses too) and acknowledge our dedicated and talented peers in the industry –  particularly those in the Tucson Originals.

While every story has an ending,  this is not particularly the one our  family would have chosen.  However, in  these last few weeks, we intend to focus on what has been and will ultimately  be our defining legacy:  the many treasured relationships we have  developed with you, our guests. 
So, in these last few weeks, we hope that you will come in and dine with us at Terra Cotta to enjoy one last bowl of Jennifer’s Tortilla Soup, the Garlic Custard, our signature Stuffed Prawns with Goat Cheese and of  course one last piece of our famous Chocolate Mousse Pie.

We’ll be open nightly starting at 4:00 PM now thru  January 31. 


Michael and Maya, Don and Donna

  1. The writing was on the wall for restaurant two years ago. As a former employee of these people I can honestly say that the Tucson restaurant scene will benefit from this closing.

    The place is thought of as a joke in the industry, there was nothing more embarassing than going out telling people where you worked and having them ask “What happenned to the place”. You could’nt find anybody of quality to work there because everybody in Tucson had either already been fired for some temper tantrum had by the owners or,like in my case, after a couple months realized that these people are ridiculous to work for.

    The original owners had nothing to do with day to day operations other than watering plants and in Donna’s case sitting in on manager meetings belittling the chef. As far as Michael and Maya, Michael was never there, instead he had a job selling opentable reservation systems to other restaurants, what does it say about an “owner/GeneralManager” that has to have a second job,and lastly, Maya, if there ever was a more clueless person working in a restaurant I have been lucky enough in my twenty years in the buisness not to run into them, she was rude,dictatorial and knew nothing about the inner workings of a restaurant.

    Maybe if this family had spent more time trying to run a successfull buisiness and less living in the past trying to relive the old glory of a restaurant that long ago lost its luster they would still be in buisiness

  2. How very sad to read the news of this closing. Cafe Terra Cotta/Terra Cotta and the Luria/Nordin families have a long history of giving to this community.

    The first time I encountered Donna Nordin, she was serving food at a fundraiser at the Zoo, and in the years since I have been impressed by how many times I’ve seen her or her staff volunteering at these events. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she has always had a quick smile for her customers.

    Michael and Maya Luria have always been gracious hosts, and have kept the quality of food and service an example for all in the industry. I’m sure the Luria’s will land on their feet. I know they are supported by a loving extended family.

    It tells you a lot about their character that after the devastating fire the restaurant suffered, the first concerns were finding work for their employees.

    I wish all of the Terra Cotta family good luck and good fortune in their future endeavors.

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