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Dining with Draz: Café Luna

By Lori Draz

This month, we headed up to Old Bridge to Café Luna. It has a big, illuminated sign that’s hard to miss from the highway. The interior is modern and minimalistic, chic and sophisticated with icy whites, silver and brown accents. It has a New York feel and attitude; in fact, the restaurant’s first location opened in New York more than 30 years ago. This location has a vibrant energy and a decade-long history of serving lots of regular, loyal diners. The Sicilian cuisine is well-represented. The recipes are not complicated, and the ingredients and preparation are high quality. We happened to visit on a particularly crowded evening, and the wait staff handled all the tables with pleasant efficiency. 

Café Luna has a large wine selection and some colorfully named cocktails like the Pink Kitty, the Perfect Pear and a showy number called Rose Gold Sangria, which combines Whispering Angel, Grand Marnier and champagne with a touch of edible gold. They also have a large and popular bar that got more and more populated as a nighttime ready crowd, dressed for clubbing, assembled for the Thursday night DJ. 

We began with a salad for the table as well as two appetizers. Our first was a Stuffed Fig Special, which I hope you will able to find. The two plump figs were lightly breaded and fried, split and stuffed with goat cheese and served on a bed of arugula. They were so delicious that one of diners was inspired to try to make them for his holiday appetizer. The second was a slam dunk surprise: the Italian Nachos. We were curious to see how these nachos – made with homemade tortilla chips, broccoli rabe, spicy sausage, ricotta and sauce – would come together and what a treat! It’s such a big portion. We thought we couldn’t handle it, but there wasn’t a crumb left. We rounded out the first course with the Artichoke and Avocado Salad. It was so beautifully prepared and plated – perfect bite sized chunks of artichoke and ripe avocado slices topped with shaved parmigiana in a light yet flavorful lemon and oil dressing with a salty crunch coming from pistachios. 

Now for the entrées. Diner one selected Pork Chops Siciliano. These are two lightly breaded chops in a light brown sauce with a spicy attitude, thanks to the hot cherry peppers and pepperoncini. She loved the heat which did not overpower the perfectly cooked pork. Served with a side of chunky potatoes, the dish had a rustic feel that reminded her of many dinners from home.  

Diner two had the Chicken Valentino, which is pounded chicken breast in a white wine butter sauce topped with prosciutto de Parma, asparagus and fresh mozzarella, which he paired with roasted potatoes. He really enjoyed the earthy dish and was particularly impressed with the flavorful sauce which gave the dish an authentic feel. It was just what he wanted, and it hit the target of his expectations.

I went with Tagliatelle Pesto Di Salvaggioa which comes with juicy porcini mushrooms, filet mignon and shaved parmigiana. The menu version comes with a pesto sauce, but I opted to swap it for a brandy cream sauce, deepening the richness of this dish. I enjoyed the combination of the chewy mushrooms with the filet mignon, but the beef was cut into almost pea-sized cubes. There was plenty of the beef, but if you’re looking for a filet mignon bite, I would order a steak instead.  

We ended with two tasty desserts. The first was a chocolatey delight, consisting of a warm lava cake served with a ribbon of chocolate mousse and liqueur soaked cherries with a scoop of coffee gelato on the side. All the flavors really came together on this one, and those cherries took it to the next level.  Our second was a playful spin on a pumpkin cheesecake that is served with a caramel sauce and a complimentary flavored scoop of gelato. It had a wonderful seasonal gingerbread taste which we all enjoyed. Each was artfully plated and large enough to be shared. The coffee was good too. 

Café Luna is available for catering and parties. There’s a big parking lot with valet available on selected nights, and it’s handicap accessible.  

Cost – Moderate 

What we liked- The fanciful cocktail menu, the quality ingredients, the appetizers, the big parking lot and valet parking, the city chic interior and the fact it’s open for lunch and dinner.

What we didn’t like – It can get a little noisy when it’s full. 

We give it 4 and a half Js. 

Café Luna is located at 3679 Route 9 North in Old Bridge. 732-965-5490. It is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 pm and Sunday from 1 to 9 pm. Closed Monday. CafeLunaNJ.com

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