Luna Café & Ristorante at 32 Main St. in Millburn is a little café that roars.
Located at the busy intersection of Main and Essex streets, this restaurant offers familiar dishes tweaked with non-traditional ingredients. The café, which is just over a year old, is a small neighborhood restaurant with a warm, welcoming feel.
The restaurant is located in what used to house a Cold Stone Creamery. It has 10 tables in the main dining area – but the bar area is where the real action takes place. Though the café doesn’t serve alcohol, patrons can sit and eat at the bar stools.
People seated there seemed to know each other and each time the door opened, they looked to see if they could recognize each new visitor.
Our waitress brought us two menus – one featuring the night’s specials, the other the regular daily menu. A quick glance of the menu revealed an ample variety of choices – including rabbit, shellfish, chicken, lamb and beef, each fully named in Italian and described in English. Any additional questions about the menu, the waitress was fully knowledgeable about preparation and substance.
Because the night was so cold, I wanted a soup as my appetizer. My friend ordered minestrone soup and I chose the pasta e fagoli. It’s important to note, the soups are not listed on the menu. Had the waitress not mentioned them to us, we would never have known they were available.
The ladies in our group ordered salads – a salad of mixed greens, carmelized pears and walnuts with goat cheese ($8.95) and a special salad of mixed greens, arugula and canolini beans topped with grilled shrimp ($10.95).
The soups arrived first, steaming hot with a fragrant aroma. The bowl of pasta e fagoli featured plenty of white beans and pasta with a thick broth. The minestrone arrived in an onion soup crock and featured plenty of vegetables beneath a thin tasty broth. The wait staff offered both shaved parmesan and fresh ground pepper, but we felt neither was necessary as the soups were perfectly seasoned. Both soups were shared by everyone at the table.
The salads were both beautifully prepared and the presented. One of our guests wondered if the salad would have been better if the walnuts were carmelized rather than the pears, but overall was very pleased with her choice. Both salads were fresh, crispy and refreshing.
For our entrées, our dining companion quickly decided on a lamb osso bucco ($25.95) with papparadelle. While osso bucco is traditionally prepared with veal, this is one of the many examples of how Café Luna is different from the crowd.
It should be noted all of our entrées that evening were served with cubed, pan-fried white potatoes and broccoli rabe.
One thing a dining companion noticed is the dishes are not heavily sauced. Rather, the chef focuses on the true flavors and components of each ingredient and marries the dish together, which can often be a difficult task to do.
For my entrée, I chose the chicken breast medallions ($15.95) sauteéd with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. The dish featured five plump medium-sized chicken medallions. I found the portion size just right and the chicken well-seasoned and tasty.
One other companion also chose the chicken, but she chose the stuffed breast of chicken with dried figs and Mascarpone cheese in a balsamic reduction ($15.95). She found the meal “absolutely delicious” and offered up samples to the rest of the table. Everyone who tried it agreed.
Our last dining companion ordered the grilled sirloin steak marinated in garlic and fresh rosemary, served with arugula salad ($18.95). Since she had arugula with her salad, the waitress graciously offered her potatoes and broccoli rabe instead.
She ordered the steak medium rare and was pleased the steak arrived at the table how she requested. She felt the steak needed a bit more salt, but otherwise was very pleased with her selection.
We completed our meal with decaf cappuccinos and desserts. In our opinion, the dessert menu was modestly price at $5 per choice – which ranged from sorbets and gelatos to tiramisu and warm chocolate cake with vanilla gelato.
The chef personally came to our table to find out if everything was to our liking and requested we come again.
The cafe is conveniently located near the Paper Mill Playhoouse for diners who want to grab a meal before or after a show.
The café does not have a liquor license and is BYOB. Also, reservations are highly recommended as we saw several people turned away. Parking near the restaurant in municipal lots was difficult, probably because of events at the Paper Mill Playhouse that evening.
There is one bathroom on premises, which is handicap accessible.
Luna Café & Ristorante
32 Main St., Millburn
Serving lunch, dinner and brunch. Eat-in or take-out menu.
Hours: Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-10p.m.