Without any advertising, Luna has attracted a dedicated following. Sandwiched between a Starbucks and a taqueria, the restaurant looks like an unlikely place for fine Italian food. But once you’re inside the 49 seat restaurant, it starts to work its charm. Dark wood wainscoting, heavy glass lamps hanging from the ceiling and silk and velvet drapes give Luna an intimate warmth. Redoune’s presence adds to the hominess.
“I’m the owner and the chef, so I’m always here,” he says in his lyrical Mediterranean accent. “It’s nice to do business with locals.”
Redoune describes his menu as a blend of new and old: “You get old-school tastes with a modern presentation.” The restaurant specializes in northern and southern Italian standards like saltimbocca, chicken cacciatore, and risotto. But the three-year-old Luna takes these familiar dishes very seriously. Redoune, partner and co-chef Hafid Tadri, and co-chef Habib Gacifi don’t so much replicate the old standards as define them.
Take the fettuccini with Bolognese sauce. Many restaurants make a Bolognese; few do it well. Like the sly smile on the lips of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous lady, this brick red sauce reveals a depth of character beyond its simple appearance. Carrots, celery, and onions add a layer of sweetness, while bacon contributes a sultry, meaty backbone. Couple that sauce with hearty ribbons of homemade pasta and a sprinkle of parsley and parmesan cheese and you’ve got, well, a classic.
“Many customers just like the simple things,” says Redoune. “A bowl of pasta, bread with a little olive oil, a glass of wine. That’s a perfect meal.”
Service, too, is classically smooth. From busser to waiter, the front-of-the-house staff knows its stuff and is comfortable talking about the menu. Redoune says many of the sewers have been with Luna since it opened, a rarity in the high-turnover restaurant business.
Redoune’s style of cooking developed when he cooked professionally in Italy, France, and Belgium benefits from the same kind of constancy and knowledge. Rich cream of portabella soup is redolent of mush rooms and backed with just the right amount o cream. Minestrone is robust and tomatoey,
The antipasto for two is another winning starter, and could easily feed four. The plate brims with marinated mushrooms, egg-Luna’s lasagna is the best you’ve never had—unless you’ve spent time in Bologna. Sheets of freshly made pasta are napped with béchamel sauce, rather than ricotta cheese. Instead of a goopy crust of mozzarella, Redoune dusts the top with Romano and parmesan cheese. Best of all, the lasagna is layered with Luna’s fantastic Bolognese sauce.
“This is the dish that put us on the map,” explained our server one night.
Other standout dishes are the seafood risotto and the osso buco. The risotto is creamy and delicate, suffused with a rich tomato sauce and the flavor of the accompanying shrimp, scallops, and mussels. The osso buco was a special but deserves a place on the regular menu. The tender veal shanks were braised for hours and sat atop a rich, deep wine sauce sparked with a hint of citrus.
The only entrée that was less good was the pumpkin ravioli special. While the silken homemade ravioli was filled with moist pumpkin, the creamy sauce overwhelmed the dish.
Although its description on the dessert menu doesn’t quite match the real thing, torta di bosco is great. Red and black currants, blackberries, and raspberries are stacked on an airy puff pastry. It’s all surrounded by a shallow pool of thin caramel-lemon custard embroidered with drops of berry sauce. Luna, a dessert made of cappuccino frozen mousse rolled in dark chocolate crumbs, is a delicious version of mud pie.
While Redoune says customers urge him to expand, he’s staying put.
“I have many of the same customers since I opened. It gets to be like a family. It’s working. Why mess it up?”