Lunetta on Smith
Checked out this place last night and my impression is that this place will end up being a nice addition to the neighborhood. The restaurant was relatively crowded, and I thought the tables were a bit tight. We opted to sit at the kitchen bar, where we had a great view of the chefs doing their thing. We started with a bottle of chianti, but the wine list had a variety of options. For appetizers we tried the mushroom bruschetta and the cauliflower. I thought both small starters were really good, but the mushrooms on the bruschetta were not warm (as I think they were intended to be) because the food sat in the window for a while before the waiter brought it over to us. We had the same problem with the entrees. We ordered the beef dish as well as the musseles. The beef was cooked perfectly, with a nice mushroom accompaniment, though again cold because it sat in the window. I'm not sure why the chefs didn't pass the dishes over to us directly since we were sitting right there. It would have made sense seeing that the place was crowded and the waitstaff was allowing food to linger in the window. I was not crazy about the broth the mussels were in. It tasted vaguely of chicken stock, though the chef assured me they prepared the broth with clam juice. Regardless, I couldn't help but think it tasted a bit like Campbell's soup from the can. The mussels were nice and plump and had the broth been different, they would have be very good.
We ended the meal with a trio of gelato: marscapone, toasted almond & chocolate hazelnut. All very rich and very delicious.
Overall the bill came to about $90 with tip. Not that expensive and I will certainly think of going back. The pastas looked really good coming out. I imagine the staff just needs some time to find their groove.
Had Brunch at Lunetta for the first time this past Saturday. I've got to say that it may be one of the best brunches I've had on Smith St. What was more interesting was that we were the only customers the entire time. I had a three egg breakfast and just for the heck of it, a side of meatballs. Others in my party had the truffled toast, and the poached eggs with a creamy tomatoe and cheese sauce. Everyone left satisfied and glowing. Lunetta gets my brunch stamp of approval big time.
I really wanted to like this place. I was a big fan of Taku (though, admittedly, not enough of one to help keep it in business).
Still, I give Lunetta a C+
Two of us went tonight -- Saturday, got there at 8:45 and were told there'd be a 30 minute wait. No problem. They took our cell number and we went to Bar Tabac for a cocktail. After 40 minutes we walked back to check in and were seated 5 minutes later. Service-wise, things were basically fine. It seems like they've worked out some of the early kinks others were complaining of, or maybe we just got lucky.
The food was, unfortunately, pretty mediocre. In general, I felt like everything suffered from the too-much (fill in the blank) syndrome. Lemon, oil, cloying sweetness, a rich sauce or two....you name it. Started off with pasta; we got the spaghetti carbonara, which I'm a huge sucker for. First issue: carbonara does not involve cream! Nor lemon! In fact, there was a ridiculous amount of lemon juice in it, and the pasta, while nicely al dente, was drowning in the sauce. Palates feeling somewhat under assault, we moved on to mains. A branzino filet (so wish it had been whole) was perfectly cooked and the skin crispy, but all the delicacy of the fish was lost to a dense, tomatoey sauce (i think it was called a fonduta) along with somewhat oily swiss chard. A big bowl of meatballs (truly massive next to the fish) were nicely sauced and had promise, but for the over-abundance of currants, which gave the whole dish an inescapable sweetness. The side of sauteed rapini was also a little too-too; too much oil and too much garlic. What we needed instead was a plate of crudite. (In fact, I'd craved a salad to start but none really appealed. Each seemed, in its own way, a little haphazard).
Perhaps the combination of the rich carbonara followed by meatballs (along with fish and a side) was a bit of a one-two punch. We were ordering a bit more according to the impulsive school of "the three best-sounding things are..." even if it makes for a less-than-perfectly-balanced meal. Still, everything weighed. A nice bottle of Soave, not normally a challenge by any stretch, even became a bit of a chore because our palates were suffering from fatigue.
(Incidentally, we couldn't help but order a three flavor pick of Il Laboratorio...olive oil, pistachio, and lemon. A perfect assortment)
All in all, the bill came to $115 after tax. I couldn't help but feel like I'd wished we'd gone to Franny's. Or Al di La. Or any number of places. I can't say that for that money that we'll be returning. It wasn't that the prices were wildly out of line, just that the food doesn't justify a $115 meal at a casual neighborhood restaurant.
While I have issues whatsoever with your review nor have I ever been to Lunetta, keep in mind that many carbonara recipes by revered chefs and in respected cookbooks DO indeed involve the use of cream. It is a disputed point and certainly one that is argued but you'll find cream in quite a few carbonaras and the use is not wrong. I've even had carbonara with cream in Italy!
I'm a photographer and covered Lunetta for a local paper. I have to say that it was the worst experience of my professional career. The owner/chef Adam Shepard was a cool guy over the phone but when I got there he was very busy but didn't tell me it wasn't a good time. Basically I sat there for over an hour (with my gf who he said I could bring when I asked on the phone) and totally ignored us. When I finally asked him a question he started literally screaming at me with other diners in the restaurant.
Besides that the one dish we tasted was decent (the pumpkin ravioli) but I saw they used boxed pasta you buy from the supermarket and well let's just say when a chef screams and swears at you it's not the kinda place I would go to again. I'm sure it will continue to do well but that man doesn't deserve any success if he continues to treat people like garbage. I called him two days later and he half appologized but whatever.. I'd eat cardboard before letting him cook for me.
Finally made it here tonite and everyone is correct, it's a nice addition to the neighborhood. We ate at the bar. Very friendly, good service. Not rushed, even though it was a Sat night and tables were full. Good timing on the food, with things coming out as ordered in a reasonable amount of time. No problem getting bread, water... anything.
The food was above average and we'll return. I think the Frankie's comparison is a good one and, this time, I'll disagree with Nehna on some specifics: I like Frankie's meatballs better (although these were quite good: I love garlic) and I like the cheeses at Lunetta better (I dont think much of Frankie's selection). The ricotta was homemade today and excellent; the others of good quality as well (& very nice serving sizes). Both the eggplant & the mushroom bruschettas were solid choices (as someone already said, they do love to use the butter), although the eggplant might be a little sweet for some. The fried artichokes were greaseless and very nicely done. The white wines and the prosecco by the glass were a little overpriced at $10/glass but the pours were generous and the quality good. For $100 including good holiday tip it was well worth it.
Have not been to the place, but Stella's post raises an interesting question, one applicable to a range of similar neighborhood places: why not a few fairly simple sweets, well-made :a homey crostata or fruit tart, for instance, or pears in wine, or really good seasonal fresh fruit or even two or three sturdy cheeses? No need for complex microemulsion adventures or superclotted outrageous stuff all the time.
I've been twice and enjoyed it -- I too liked the penne with lamb ragu and ricotta, and the orecchiette with sausage is also very good. I thought the branzino was good but nothing to write home about.
One bummer: the dessert menu, or lack thereof. I went on opening night and there were several desserts listed, but my date and I were told we could only have either Il Lab gelato or biscotti from One Girl Cookies. When I last visited on Wednesday night, those two items were the only ones on the dessert menu. So I take it there's no pastry chef. I'm bummed, because I really enjoyed the chocolate pot de creme at Taku and also because the portions at Lunetta are just small enough that you'd be interested in dessert after dinner, and somehow a couple of scoops of gelato isn't quite what I'm looking for.
re: jen kalb
Okay, maybe not a pastry chef, but at least some kind of house-made dessert. (Hell, even non-house-made desserts brought in from a local bakery. The One Girl biscotti were not bad, but not really satisfying at the end of a meal.) Taku managed to do it (and plenty of other small neighborhood places do) -- why not in this incarnation of the restaurant?
Just went to Lunetta for the first time last night (a Wednesday). Enjoyable meal - not outstanding, but definitely decent. Liked the mushroom bruschetta very much. The crispy chicken was quite crispy (fantastic!) but the sauce was overly sweet for my taste(not fantastic). Huge portion too. My friend had the lamb pasta which was pretty good and a smaller portion size. (I'm generally a fan of small portions.)
Overall I liked the meal, prices were reasonable and I'll go back but probably not right away. But man... I really miss Taku.
Ate at Lunetta the night after Thanksgiving.
Mushroom Toast: Delicious, oily bread topped with assorted sauted mushrooms and a sprig of thyme. Big slice that really satisfies.
Fried Artichoke Hearts with Lemon: Listed as a special. Good, but sliced so thinly the hearts were brittle and a bit insubstantial. I prefer a thicker slice like that served at Dumont that oozes a little oil when you bite into it.
Pork Belly: Surprisingly light comfort dish. The bean stew accompanying the two generous slabs of pork belly really complimented the meat nicely.
Orecchiette with sausage and broccoli: Fresh, lightly flavored sauce, perfectly al dente pasta, and a sweet crumbled sausage. Delicious and well-portioned.
Total cost with 2 beers: Just over $50.
Service was more attentive than during the Taku era, but still a bit on the awkward side. I think we were asked "how is everything" at least three times. And side plates, kindly supplied by the waiter who recognized that my friend and I were sharing, were abbruptly cleared by another without a word.
Still, the service issues are minor compared the the delicious, reasonably priced food. I'll definitely be back.
We ate at the bar on Sunday night. All in all a very nice experience...after reading the posts here I wasn't expecting much in terms of service and in fact found our server to be very polite and competent--the place is just understaffed. They needed at least one more person on the floor, and/or someone dedicated to diners at the bar only. Food wise, very much enjoyed the penne with lamb, and the roasted califlower and brussels sprouts. Shared the chicken which had amazingly crispy skin and juicy meat--I agree with anita cocktail that the sauce could use a little less sweet. But we enjoyed the experience very much and will be back. (Still miss Taku...)
I had mixed feelings after trying this place on Friday evening. In terms of the menu, it is a type of "Lupa-lite", which for us is excellent. The food was certainly very tasty. The service was very nice, if not a little slow and oddly paced.
My main complaint was with the portions. They were all small. We had a cheese and charcuterie plate with 2 cheeses and sopresatta. There were 2 small pieces of each each cheese and 3 slices of sopressata. In my opinion, that is a very small serving and we had to order a extra sopresatta. We also ordered the sauteeed rapini (broccoli rabe) in lieu of a salad. It was very flavorful and a nice, although not generous, portion. We ordered 2 pasta dishes, each with very little in the way of noodles. Again, everything tasted great, especially the linguini with clam sauce. But, there really was not much to the dish.
I am not an advocate of huge portions. But, I also don't think 2 people should walk out wondering what;s for dinner, especially after dropping $100 for the 2 of us.
I went last night and had a wonderful evening and wonderful food.
The bruschetta was outstanding (our table sampled the mushroom and the tomato), as were most of the dishes. The real standouts were the pumpkin rav special and the crispy chicken.
Our service was friendly and on time. We had no problems with apps coming out early and no problems with service at all. All and all a wonderful place and I will go back many times. The only negatives: the room was not super exciting or warm (but it was perfectly fine). Also, I thought the wine list needed some work.
Just had an early Fri night dinner there and overall I thought it was fabulous. Started with good and generous martini and whiskey + mushrrom buschetta ( a lovely assortment of beautifully cooked mushrooms over great toasted bread which had been cut in half for us to split) & excellent fried artichokes (I actually loved them sliced so thin). Then on to the meatballs and orchiette with sausage -- again, both really fabulous. Also quite rich (all dished have a high olive oil & butter quotient, but it works),
By this time, the restaurant was getting packed and the service began to suffer a bit. Our gelato dessert didn't show up for a long enough time that out waiter comped it (we had asked after its status, but hadn't complained, so it was a very nice and smart gesture to comp it).
Overall, highly reccomend.
Yes, it IS a good combo. Last night it was consumed as whiskey-in-glass, bruschetta-on-plate, but I bet it would be really tastey as whiskey-deglazes-mushroom.
To continue on the booze note, we also shared a bottle of chianti that wasn't so great & today I have a splitting headache. Now I possess a bit of the proverbial hollow leg & usually a cocktail + 1/2 bottle of wine imbibed on a weekend night doesn't affect me the next day, so I'm blaming inferior wine. In short, avoid the chianti.
Went to Lunetta on a weeknight around 9:30.
Crispy chicken agrodolce - crispy indeed. The sauce was heavier on the dolce than agro side - could have used more of the tart kick. Wish I had thought to toss the bones into my purse - I desperately wanted to knaw them clean. Decorum stopped me.
the lamb ragu with penne was great. i am a sucker for stewed lamb.
the eggplant bruschetta was fantastic - great smoke in the eggplant, and wonderfully creamy. I believe there was honey involved and/or the eggplant was yound and fresh as didnt have a bitter edge to it.
The other appetizer: lemony fried artichokes. I consider artichokes a sacred thistle - you must have determination and hunger to prepare the nutty pricks. So it was disheartening to me that they were fried to a frizzle, leaving hardly any creamy nuttiness to relish. Perhaps a thicker cut or a little batter (a la typical frito misto) would have protected them.
As for wine: the list is limited, but that doesn't really bother me. I would love some lower price options, especially for a neighborhood joint. But I am very pleased that they offer splits! 1.75 glasses each is just right for a wednesday, or it allows you to do more pairing from appetizers to dinner.
I must comment, on a service note, about the treatment of dishes leaving the table. I used to wait tables so I am more prickly than some on this matter. I do not like plates to be whisked away in a hurry. both parties should be done before the plates leave. and please don't ask if I am done "working" on something. I am not working, I am enjoying.
To remove plates at the end of our meal, our server stacked them before us, right on the table - bones and cutlery dumped and jostled so she could make herself one neat stack before lifting it from the table. I found it very tacky. please stack them on your own time, out of my conversation space and view. learn to carry them on your arm, like a pro.
whew. pardon my outburst.
Will certainly return for neighborhood yummies and universal appeal.
Went to La Lunetta this weekend, and while the food was good, the service and kitchen need some serious improvement.
We arrived around 9 on Saturday (2 people), expecting to wait, but were seated immediately. There were a few other two-tops available as well.
We ordered a bottle of Chianti, tomato bruschetta, beet salad, the fried sweet and sour chicken and the orechiette with sausage. The prices are quite reasonable ($11-15 for entrees, and only $3 for the wonderful bruschette), and the wine list is solid.
The bruschetta and the salad were delicious and we were midway through enjoying them when the waitress suddenly brought out our entrees. She took a look at our appetizers, shrugged and dumped the entrees on the already crowded table unapologetically. I asked if they could bring the plates back when we were ready for them and she said "but it's ready now" and left them on the table.
The irony here was that the chicken was actually undercooked and I had to send it back to the kitchen. The entrees were ok, not spectacular, but solidly good.
We were big fans of Taku -- the food and service here doesn't seem to be in the same league. We may go back, but there are better Italian places in the neighborhood (e.g., Frankies).
I just went to Frankies for the first time and have to say I prefer the food at Lunetta. I thought, in particular, the meatballs and Lunetta were far superior (they really are wonderful). I do think Frankies has a better cheese list.
That's a pity to hear about the service....they do seem very harried, as they are unaccustomed to the sort of crowds they're drawing in with the new place. But thats no excuse for what happened to you with the entrees. When we went, they asked us up front about our preferred pacing and we said to bring everything out as it was ready, so we had no such problems.
If the place had been totally packed, I might have been a little more sympathetic, but there were plenty of empty tables. That said, the food *was* good, so maybe I'll give them another shot if they can get their service in order.
I haven't tried the meatballs at either place, but the cavatelli with sausage and sage at Frankie's is one of my neighborhood faves.
We went for a second meal at La Lunetta on Friday night (this time for a proper meal, not just a few apps). Had a wonderful time. It was indeed PACKED. I'm glad to see the new venture getting off to such a good start, as much as it saddens me that I never once saw Taku that busy. I guess the neighbhorhood got what it wanted ;)
3 of us so we sampled a variety of things. 3 bruschettas - mushroom, tomato, ricotta. All 3 were enjoyed (we didnt have any issue with mushroom temp...they were warm as I recall and as good as the prior time we had). Had the fried artichokes--they were a little oily/heavy for me, but the others loved them. Had a plate of proscuitto, soppresatta, taleggio which were all tasty. LOVED the meatballs we had next. Very creamy, excellent sauce. Had the orrechietta pasta with sausage, which had the perfect amount of saltiness...a well prepared, simple pasta dish.
I think they werent expecting such attention from the get go, as quiet as Taku often was. So its going to take the staff a bit of time to react and adjust to their popularity. The service was a little slow for us but the waitress was very friendly and apologetic about any delays, just obviously very busy. Another waitress also checked in to make sure we were ok and not being forced to wait too long. I dont really mind slow service in a new place as long as the servers acknowledge it and try their best to keep you happy. If the food wasnt hot, I would have informed the staff....I'm sure they wouldnt want you eating lukewarm food had they known.
This is definitely going to be a regular spot for us. I just hope reservations wont end up being necessary. Was amazed how busy everything on Smith St. was this past Friday. Chestnut was packed too when we walked past on a hunt for pie for dessert.