In honor of a special occasion, welcoming a friend into the neighborhood, we decided to have dinner at Bella Luna. It is Italian (and everyone loves Italian food), it’s deliriously decorated, and it is properly “in to hood”.
This isn’t the first time I have visited Bella Luna and I have always had good food but it’s the ambiance, hospitality, and wild welcome that bring me back. However, please note, that I have detected that the food at Bella Luna has changed–it had gotten even better. This difference has occurred after their other restaurant was sold so there might be a connection there. Portions used to be insane, the menu was enormous, and everything was extreme. but now Bella Luna has taken up the art of subtlety as well as the art of abbondanza.
We were called on the day of our reservation to confirm (good idea on a Saturday night). Parking was tight (it’s a good restaurant and everyone wants to go there on Saturday night). Among our party was a new neighbor from New York City (Manhattan) she is Italian and knows the real deal. All the rest of us were the usual been-there-done-that crowd.
When we walked in there was a band playing at a sane level in the corner. We were greeted warmly and the owner, Mr. Stevens, appeared and was a great a jovial host. Once our party of six was seated we decided to take advantage of one of Bella Luna’s unique features: The Mystery Bucket. You tell the waitress whether you want red or white, she brings around a bucket with 4 upended bottles of wine in it. You choose which one you want (you can’t see the labels or the bottle shoulders). I chose a wonderful Campo Viejo Rioja and my seatmate chose Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon. The Mystery Bucket is not only fun for the blind choosing, you are guaranteed a very good wine and you get it at a slight discount. It’s a win-win for the customer.
Next I had the Wedge salad, which is a big hunk of Iceberg lettuce with a tangy Gorgonzola dressing. Crunchy and good, the dressing was the right amount and had the best balance among flavors.
My main course was their divine fresh mozzarella ravioli. The pasta is thin thin thin, just like you will find in Rome; the sauce is a butter sauce. The taste is delicate and very subtle. The portion is sensible, too. I was grateful for that because if they had served too much, I would have eaten it all. This is a delightful meal which sometimes gets overshadowed by the spectacular bravado of some menu items, which are wonderful, but if you are looking for the master stroke of classic goodness, try the fresh mozzarella ravioli. You won’t be disappointed.
So, here are the ways I think that Bella Luna has changed:
- The menu contains spicy and wild items as well as mild classics
- The menu is a manageable size (it used to be more like a phone book and felt a bit like an assignment to get through
- The service is more professional, it used to be fun but professional will please everyone
- Innovation is still very much in evidence on the menu but they have not abandoned what has made them popular to begin with
The genius here is that most people change a good restaurant and ruin it, Bella Luna changed itself to be more like what other people want. Bella Luna has aged beautifully and now it is one of the go-to places in my ‘hood. It was great fun before but it’s exactly what you want it to be now. So visit them and see for yourself.