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Fresh, flavorful Italian fare and an ocean view make Caffe Luna Rosa a great spot for summer dining. The restaurant is open for casual breakfasts and lunches, but at night, it switches to candlelight dining with serenading musicians
By Jana Soeldner Danger
Golden-hued woods, Tuscan-style arches, pillars, granite and original artwork create an attractive, casual-chic ambiance in the bar and the elevated, open-air dining room of Caffe Luna Rossa located directly across the street from the beach. Crisp white cloths top closely spaced tables. On a recent evening, nearly all were filled with a mix of attractive young professionals, older singles, couples, and even a family or two. The noise level is moderate enough so conversation is easy. Wood-topped outdoor tables on the lower sidewalk level are great for people-watching.
Pastas, breads, and desserts are made on the premises, and not surprisingly, pasta dishes are an especially good bet. The chefs also roast their own coffee beans. At Café Luna Rosa (“café of the pink moon”) portions are generous – no fancy tiny servings or sculptured food there. The wine list includes more than 200 vintages, and servers are knowledgeable enough to describe any of the pours you’re considering. Selections offered by the glass are well-chosen.
Shortly after you sit down, a server delivers a basket of crusty dark and light Italian breads, along with fragrant, seasoned olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, as well as fresh parmesan cheese grated tableside.
We began with a starter ($9) consisting of a colorful mix of chewy rings of calamari, firm, plump shrimp, and briny mussels. The dressing of lemon-infused olive oil was very light, so it did not interfere with the fresh, delicate flavors and textures of the seafood.
Perhaps the best dish we had all evening was an Asian-style special of thinly-sliced, cured salmon ($12) seasoned with lots of black pepper, garlic, and fresh ginger. A bed of crispy bok choy helped absorb the spiciness, and provided crunch to complement the softer texture of the fish.
Other appetizers include polenta-dusted fried calamari ($9); meatballs with Bolognese sauce ($7); sliced tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella ($414); and a platter for two($13) with reggiano cheese, plum tomatoes, and herb-toasted semolina bread.
As with appetizers, we stayed with seafood for our main courses. Clams, mussels, chopped mahi mahi, calamari and large shrimp ($23) seasoned with garlic and basil, then tossed in a marinara sauce with el dente linguine was a hearty, homestyle dish. All the seafood was very fresh, and not overcooked. Although we ordered the entrée spicy, however, the dish was so mild it bordered on blandness.
A special of the evening was a mix of large shrimp, mussels, mahi mahi and fresh red peppers, wrapped in foil campfire style, and then steamed. Served with crisp-tender asparagus spears and saffron rice, the seafood was colorful and cooked just right, but the dish could have used more seasoning.
Other entrees include veal Marsala ($23); chicken breast ($18) with lemon caper sauce; and pepper-crusted filet mignon tournedos ($27).
Desserts at Caffe are delightful. Crème brulee ($5), one of my favorite sweets, had a perfectly seared crust protecting the deliciously creamy vanilla custard. A dark, rich chocolate brownie ($6) was smothered with strawberries and cream.
Although most desserts are housemade, cheesecake ($7.50) is brought in from New York. It was an outstanding version, creamy yet light, and garnished with fresh blueberries and strawberries.
Prompt service, a gorgeous ocean view, beach-chic ambiance, and food made from fresh, quality ingredients make Caffe Luna Rosa a good choice for a summer evening.