Don’t fix what isn’t broken, is a motto to live by and Bella Luna in the Upper West Side is doing exactly that. Bella Luna has been serving this neighborhood for 30 years. Up until 6 months ago they closed to relocate to a different space not too far from the original. Relaunching about a week and a half ago you can tell that they were truly missed by the neighborhood.
When my companion and I arrived at Bella Luna it was bustling with diners which is always a good sign. We waited for a few minutes to be seated. The setting is very intimate; the tables are closely arranged with the lighting dark and wood slats painted to be a mural. Fresh bread and olive oil arrived moments after being seated. I’m a firm believer growing up in an Italian household that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the best pairing for a good Italian bread.
For appetizers my companion and I started with the Fried Calamari and the Meatballs, both of which were outstanding. The Calamari was flash fried, lightly salted and tender like butter. I love it when they barely have any chew to them. The sauce was the perfect accompaniment which had an amazing amount of heat to it. I stand true that the little bit of heat is always key. I literally was soaking up the remainder of it with my bread . The Meatballs were on point too. They arrived in a small bowl with a much milder and sweeter sauce. The texture wasn’t spongy or too hard, they were just right with a mild amount of garlic and spice. I can tell they’d pair well in a nice bow of spaghetti.
Next up we dove into the Portobello Mushroom Salad. A delightful pairing of Sauteed Portabella Mushrooms, Arugula, Walnuts, Cranberries and Goat Cheese, finished off with a nice vinaigrette. While this pairing is nothing terribly new it was wonderfully executed. The sharp fragrant taste of the arugula is wonderfully offset by the mellowing mushroom and goat cheese while the cranberries sweetness helped make it all quite addictive.
Bella Luna serves for entrees an offering of Pizza, Pastas and other fantastic Italian dishes. My companion and I opted to have two of the pasta dishes. I indulged in the Lobster Ravioli in a cream sauce topped with fresh Dill. The Raviolis were light and the lobster filling was wonderfully delicate and tasted fresh. The addition of Dill to the cream sauce provided a subtle enhancement to giving a somewhat fragrant and earthy quality to the cream. It was an absolute delight. My companion chose the Pesto Linguini with Grilled Shrimp. Pesto is usually hit or miss, and Bella Luna happily succeeded here. The Pesto was bright, flavorful, not drowned in oil and wonderfully coated the pasta. The shrimp were perfectly seasoned and fit the profile of the dish here.
Now if you have a sweet tooth, do yourself a favor and stay for dessert. The dessert offerings, which is rather simple, were very successful. Their Italian Cheesecake is reminiscent in flavor of a traditional one but even denser, almost like a Juniors. The orange rind flavor had a wonderful play with the denser texture as the dish is usually more focused on lightness and a granular ricotta. A nice surprise truly. The Fresh Berry Tart though was our favorite. The shortbread crust was soft and mild, topped with fresh cream and Blackberries, blueberries and the fabled Lingonberries, which do exist outside of Ikea. The combination of these flavors had my friend and I resisting the urge to inhale the whole thing out of sheer deliciousness.
While Bella Luna doesn’t rewrite the rules on anything, it completely nails the role of a neighborhood Italian eatery that is worth the trip uptown. The menu is large and diverse that it warrants repeat visits and I will be looking to come back with my partner in tow. I highly recommend trying to make a reservation before hand as we did have to wait a few minutes but hey that’s how you know they’re doing it right. For more information, check out their official site.