Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bella Luna

I really *want* to like Bella Luna. It’s got a charming atmosphere, convenient location, and great concept in serving regional Italian food. Since it’s located on Eastern Avenue in the Linwood area, it’s just a stone’s throw away from Mt. Lookout, Hyde Park and downtown, and would be incredibly convenient if it was one of our favorites.

My recent occasion for visiting the restaurant was a night out with a girlfriend (and now coworker) of mine. We get together from time to time to talk about life, work and most of all, the ups and downs of being newlyweds (she was married just a week before we were). Since Peter’s made it no secret that he’s not a fan of the place, I figured it would be a good choice to lessen his feelings of being left out.

Our service was quite friendly and accommodating, especially since we weren’t the easiest diners that evening. We ordered the Bella Luna Salad (we decided to pay extra to get the figs and feta) but didn’t like the overly acidic vinaigrette dressing that clashed with the sweet, dried fruit. Our server promptly brought us new salads with honey balsamic that proved to be better, but was overly sweet and thick such that it looked and tasted more like molasses than dressing.

I chose a spicy pasta dish, the bucatini, as my entrée. Bella Luna actually did well on this one, preparing al dente spaghetti-like noodles in a rich, smoky sauce chock full of thick bacon chunks. Not the best choice before swimsuit season, but the flavor was worth the splurge and I ate every last bite. Don’t tell him since I’m trying to make him healthier, but as president of the “I love the pig” fan club, I think Peter would’ve really liked this dish.

My friend ordered good old spaghetti and meatballs. The dish looked great, but she was disappointed to find that the meatballs really didn't look like they were cooked all the way through. Not wanting to bother our server with a replacement yet again, she just picked them off and placed them to the side.

Not quite ready to go home and busy watching a violent thunderstorm roll in, we took our server’s advice and ordered the restaurant’s famous bread pudding for dessert, which we were told was a hit at last year’s Taste of Cincinnati. I love bread pudding, and hey, I needed more carbs, right? But this version wasn’t like any bread pudding I’ve ever had, and that’s not a good thing in this case. The consistency was much too smooth, as though the bread had been pureed in a Cuisinart instead of just soaked in larger chunks. I was also disappointed that there were no hidden “goodies” like nuts or dried cherries in the pudding, but just ultra-smooth, bland pudding. The sauce here was thin and syrupy where I like a more traditional thickened whiskey sauce with my version. We left most of it on the plate.

All in all, the food part of the dinner was a pretty mediocre experience. It wasn't food I would classify as terrible, but also wasn’t good enough to be memorable or worth in the money. I will give credit to Bella Luna for its charming, romantic atmosphere. Inside the decor is funky and brightly colored without being garish, and offers diners comfy booths filled with cushions and pillows—just right for those looking to relax, kick up their heels and gab. It’s my philosophy that atmosphere and service are half of what contributes to a good or bad dining experience, so Bella Luna got that half of the equation right.


The damage: about $30 each, which seemed really high considering we had no alcohol at all (my pregnant friend looked longingly at the wine list though—did we get charged for that?)

Watch out for: the vinaigrette salad dressing

Food: 2 forks (overall inconsistent)

Romance: 4 kisses, thanks to good lighting and 1/2 price bottles of wine served on Wednesday nights

Bella Luna
4632 Eastern Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45226

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