Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Over the Moon at Luna Rossa?

Luna Rossa
2449 Park Avenue
Tustin, CA 92782

It's been some time since we last visited the District at Tustin Legacy. The last review we had done at this shopping and entertainment center was about a year and a half ago when we visited The Kroft, which is situated in the now thriving Union Market. The Union Market was slow to get things rolling, but now it seems like most booths are occupied, and at least the food stalls seem busy.

There's been some new additions to the food scene at the District. Bar Louie finally shed the albatross which is the Anaheim Garden Walk and opened here a year and a half ago. Cinnaholic, a gourmet cinnamon roll shop, made famous by their appearance on Shark Tank opened for the good people of Tustin almost a year ago. Mediterranian and Italian favorite, Prego, which used to be closer to the airport, relocated to the District in late 2017. It's another Italian restaurant that has brought us here on this evening though, a restaurant that I think might have been an original tenant when the District opened, Luna Rossa.

My parents were pretty excited that we had an open spot on our calendar, and that spot just happened to my birthday. They had asked where we wanted to go, and since both Katie and I were leaving from work, we decided to meet in the middle for all of us, which brought us to the District. Traffic was pretty light, and the notorious parking disaster that is associated with this busy shopping center was not present on this early Monday evening. We got spots very close to the restaurant and made our way through the sparsely populated center.

Luna Rossa was pretty desolate as well. We had made reservations, but they were unneeded, as we were the only ones in the dining room during the entirety of our hour-long visit. There were some people hanging out near the bar in the back of the restaurant, but other than our waiter and one other server, not much action going on in the comfortable, bright dining room.

Dining options at Luna Rossa abound. The menu is laid out pretty much like you'd expect in an OC Italian restaurant. Salad and appetizers start things off, numerous pasta options are up next, along with some baked pasta dishes, then the more substantial, protein-laden plates are up next. They do also have four risotto selections for your consideration. Their wood-burning pizza oven is prominently seen from where we are sitting, and there's 13 pizzas listed on their menu. Entrees range between $17 to $40 for their lamb chops. Lamb chops, always one of my favorites, was not what I was eyeing on this evening though. Let's see what we did end up trying on our maiden visit to Luna Rossa.

Bread service is, of course, the first step in an Italian restaurant, and Luna Rossa was no exception. They had two different styles of bread in this basket, a ciabatta style, and a more traditional Italian bread. Both were good and fresh and made even better with the provided oil and vinegar. Restaurants have been shying away from this practice, which I've learned is not done at all in Italy. I imagine the high costs of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil have a lot to do with this, but it was kind of refreshing to have it here for a change.

Three of the four of us had a salad to start our meal. Katie had the Half Lattughine Mista ($7)) or Mixed Green Salad for the non-Italian of the rest of us.  This simple salad came with grated carrots, tomato wedges, and a balsamic dressing. Katie thought this was just okay. The veggies were fresh, but the dressing did not bring the greens to life. A much better option was the Half Caesar ($7) that I had. The romaine salad was dressed with a very tasty Caesar dressing and overloaded with shaved parmesan cheese. A great Caesar which had just the right ratio of dressing, cheese, and romaine in each bite. Well sized for the half portion as well. It kept me busy until the entrees started to come out for us.

My mom is definitely a creature of habit when she sees an arrabbiata sauce on an Italian menu. She has to order it. That was the case here at Luna Rossa. The Penne Arrabbiata ($15), with its slightly spicy tomato sauce and garlic undertones, made her very happy this evening. It's kind of funny, she's not really into anything really spicy other than this dish. She would definitely get this again when returning here to eat.

I guess I'm pretty predictable as well when eating in an Italian restaurant. I always look for a dish which features sausage. This Rigatoni Con Salsiccia ($24) not only came with sausage but onions and mushrooms as well. The rigatoni was nicely made, there was a ton of sausage in this, and the mushrooms and onions added a ton of flavor. This was big enough that I kept half of it for lunch the next day, which allowed the flavors to meld even more.

Katie is a little less predictable when eating out, as I would not have guessed that she'd get this Tortellini Di Pollo ($23). The tortellini was filled with chicken and came with peas, mushrooms, and an Alfredo sauce. She thought this was a very pleasing dish. She loved the flavorful Alfredo sauce and the tender chicken nestled inside the tortellini. She could totally see herself getting this dish again.

Last but not least, was my dad's selection on this evening, the Lasagna Classica ($21). It doesn't look like it from the picture, but this was a pretty good sized slice of lasagna. This came not only with tomato and meat sauce but bechamel, which I always enjoy when its included in a lasagna. This was rounded out with some mozzarella and sprinkled parmesan on top. My dad put this away rather quickly, so I assume he was a big fan of it. The bite I had was pretty tasty as well.

From what we could tell, they send you off with, what some people online have called beignets, but these were lighter and more hollow than the typical beignet. They were fine for a free dessert, but only the powdered sugar topping these made them memorable. Our server also brought out a Panna Cotta birthday dessert for me. It had a generous amount of strawberry puree streaked across the plate. The pannacotta was one of the better versions I've had, it had a pleasing texture, understated sweetness, and paired well with the strawberry. This was my parents first time having pannacotta, and I think they were pretty impressed.

I actually really liked the food that I experienced at Luna Rossa, even if it is a little unsettling to be eating in a completely empty dining room throughout our entire visit. Actually, almost all of the restaurants that we passed by on our walk to and from the parking lot were pretty close to being deserted. It could have been because it was a Monday evening or a lot of people are on their summer vacations. Anyways, Luna Rossa is a solid spot for Italian food, with a varied menu, and some very good service. Our server, Gianluca took great care of us, even though he did not really have much to do in this uninhabited restaurant. It will hopefully not be another year and a half before we head back to the District.

Out of five lunar eclipses, (because this restaurant's name translates to a red moon in Italian, a phenomenon brought on by the earth blocking the suns light from reaching the moon, resulting in the moon being bathed in a red hue), five being best to zero being worst, Luna Rossa gets 3 lunar eclipses.

For more information about Luna Rossa, head to their website here: http://lunarossatustin.com/Home.html

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