Somewhat hidden on Eastern Avenue far from the more touristy cuisine of Hyde Park, Mount Lookout, and Mount Adam, Bella Luna is a reliable destination for good quality Italian food in a neighborhood the restaurant easily overshadows. We last visited Bella Luna when a couple of friends brought us there nearly a year ago. Our recollection involved a busy, but not overcrowded restaurant with great food and very friendly service. Returning on a Sunday evening meant the important parts of that recollection (the food and service) was accurate, but the venue was much, much quieter than on a Friday night. The restaurant is fairly large, but closes down its back dining room on Sundays (and presumably other slow nights) to scale down to meet demand.
The food on this occasion hit the mark as usual. I had potato gnocchi with a bolognese sauce. The gnocchi was perfect—small enough pieces that most were bite-size and cooked so they were easily sliced through with little effort. And the sauce was a great complement—very meaty and flavorful. The portions were just on the larger size of average—finish-able if you’re hungry and not really big enough to share.
Our meal started with salads (free) and bread. While the salads were nothing special, I thought the bread was delicious. A nice Italian bread with plentiful seasoning on top, it went down pretty quickly with the oil and balsamic vinegar dish the server prepared.
Overall, I share my date’s sentiments about the food and service. Great food, but way too fast even for a Sunday night. Nonetheless, I’m sure we’ll be back!
Sunday night is not usually the best time to try out a restaurant, but birthdays cannot be moved, so Sunday night, we were off to Bella Luna. In truth, we had eaten there once before, but it was so long ago that we didn’t remember details and it was as if we were trying it again, for the first time.
We were surprised to have a wait for a table, but then realized that they seem to anticipate light traffic flow on Sundays and close some of their dining rooms. We only waited about five minutes. One of the first things we noticed on the table was the lamp. It was a sailboat, like something you would expect in a little boy’s room. The three plates on the table were each entirely different and non-coordinating patterns. We had a discussion about whether they simply bought things haphazard at yard sales, which is what it looked like, or whether there was some overarching plan for the décor. In any case, it was funky, but still managed through the tablecloths, art on the walls, and lighting, to look somewhat upscale.
Each of our entrees came with a salad. We had seen bread around the room, so we were a little disappointed when the bread came out with our salads instead of before them. We do like to give bread the attention it’s due. It was pretty good, small slices of Italian bread, but nothing to rave about. The house salads were small and unexciting: fancy lettuce, a little tomato, and a standard dressing on the side.
The meal, however, made up for it. I read the menu and decided on the mushroom and gorgonzola ravioli in a red pepper and gorgonzola sauce. I then realized that it was the same dish that I had tried at Taste of Cincinnati…and I was psyched! The full version of the dish was three very big raviolis that had enough cheese inside to be stringy when I pulled off each bite, but not so much cheese as to overpower the sauce. It was at least as good as I remember it being a few weeks ago, which is certainly good enough for me!
We passed on dessert, since we had leftovers of a giant birthday cake waiting for us at home. My biggest complaint about the meal was the pacing. We were out of the restaurant in about a half an hour. With the bread coming out with the salads, and then the main dish pretty close on the heels of the salad, and then the check as soon as we said we didn’t want dessert or coffee, it felt like we were being rushed out—even though it was a Sunday night with empty tables nearby. I’ll go back for the food, and hope that somehow the craziness of a busier night means a more leisurely meal…with food that’s just as good as a slow night!
Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati
What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!