Serious Eats: New York
The Vegetarian Option: Expertly Prepared Italian Classics at Luna Rossa in Carroll Gardens
When we last encountered Luna Rossa, it was back in 2008 when Ed favorably mentioned the newly opened restaurant. He chose to focus on Luna Rossa's many varieties of pizza, cooked up in a combo wood/gas oven, but a quick look at the menu revealed a lot more vegetarian-friendly options: salads, pastas and casseroles.
The one thing I questioned about Luna Rossa's offerings is that they seemed a touch of date: items like greens with pears and gorgonzola and baby spinach with goat cheese seemed pretty '90s. But if you ignore fashion and are willing to just accept a good meal, this is a worthy place to have one.
A starter of eggplant parmesan ($9.95) was a stand-out version of the classic dish, featuring soft, well-seasoned fried eggplant that practically melted into the pool of warm tomato sauce and gooey cheese surrounding it. There's nothing earth-shattering about eggplant parm, but when it's pulled off this well, you can bet your fellow diners will fight you for that last bite.
A pasta course of pappardelle with porcini mushrooms ($13.95) took wide, springy ribbons of homemade pasta and crowned them with a rich, meaty, savory mushroom ragù. The well-cooked pasta provided the perfect base for the tender porcini.
Luna Rossa offers seven meat-free pizzas. I chose the Filetto ($13.95, pictured at top), a white pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, halved cherry tomatoes, and basil leaves. The pie was generously sized, with a super-thin, super-flavorful crust that was floppy with some nice char on the bottom. It disappeared quickly.
Luna Rossa's best qualities are the very ones that gave me some pause when I first looked at the menu. This is an old-fashioned, no-frills, comfy restaurant: there aren't any innovative dishes to be found, but who needs innovative when the classics are done this well? It's the type of spot that wouldn't have been out of place some decades ago, when Carroll Gardens was more a working-class Italian-American neighborhood. I'm glad it's open now.
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.