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Lunetta

Address: 920 Broadway, at 21 St. 

Phone: (212) 533-3663
Dinner: Mon.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 5 p.m.-midnight; Sun., 5-11 p.m.
Cuisine:
Italian-American
Vibe: Retro glamour
Occasion: Group dinner, casual date
Don’t Miss Dish: Ricotta bruschetta, pumpkin mezzaluna
Price: Appetizers, $6-$18; entrees, $15-$23; desserts, $7-$9
Reservations: Recommended
Capsule: Manhattanified Lunetta is but a pale reflection of the original.

Manhattan has seen its share of Brooklyn-Italian
imports over the past two years. Frankies Spuntino set up an outpost on
the lower East Side, Aurora surfaced in SoHo and Lunetta
just recently cropped up in the Flatiron District. But Lunetta’s
journey across the bridge was by far the most untraditional and storied
of them all.

Partners Adam Shepard and Jim Heckler launched the Boerum Hill eatery as a modern Japanese restaurant named Taku. Though Shepard
received critical acclaim as a chef, Taku struggled for an audience. So
they radically transformed the restaurant into small-plates Italian
Lunetta. Long waits and packed tables instantly followed.

The
partners saw so much success there that they decided to convert
Heckler’s high-end diner, Mayrose, into a bigger, Manhattan-sized
Lunetta. While Brooklyn was a tight squeeze for 38, its Flatiron
spinoff can seat over 76. The menu and even the meatballs are bigger in
Manhattan.

Other than the trademark moon logo, the two siblings
look nothing alike. Designer Fernando Santangelo has sleekly outfitted
the new space with marble tables, chocolate leather banquettes and
black-and-white checkered floors.

Luscious and buttery ricotta
is reason enough to pay either Lunetta a visit. It’s spread on crusty
bread and exhilarated by honey, lemon zest and hazelnuts. Even better
is the duck agnolotti, stuffed with savory duck and perfumed with
intoxicating hints of rosemary. Delicate mezzaluna (half-moon ravioli),
plump with pumpkin, are sauced with brown butter and sage. With the
exception of linguine and unpleasantly fishy clams, the pastas are
excellent.

But too many of Shepard’s dishes fare better in
Brooklyn. On a recent visit to Boerum Hill, his signature meatballs
still proved tender and fluffy; porchetta arrived succulent and yet
light on its feet. And an appetizer of roasted pumpkin got a vibrant
dash of chili and honey.

At the Flatiron outpost,
baseball-sized meatballs, leaden with a surplus of pine nuts and
raisins, could’ve doubled as heavy artillery. An excessively chewy
porchetta – pork belly rolled up like a bouche de noel – was overrun
with coriander and mustardo. The pumpkin agro dolce (sweet and sour)
turned up oddly soaked in vinegar with combatant slivers of red onion.

And
there’s just something about Brooklyn’s resoundingly quaint setting and
picturesque window view of Smith St. that you can’t replicate. Still,
Shepard’s ricotta bruschetta and first-rate pastas are attractive hooks
luring a trendy lot to the lofty, Flatiron setting.

And while
entrees proved inconsistent, dessert proffers a solid selection. A
wonderfully simple apple crostata yields a doughy crust punctuated by
crunchy bits of raw sugar, and a unique rendition of cheesecake employs
goat cheese folded with Concord grapes that manage to permeate each bite.

Lunetta
arrives in Manhattan a watered-down version of the original. Though it
has the promise of a fine chef, it hasn’t yet mastered its inflated,
new domain. Perhaps it should take some kitchen cues from its older,
wiser sibling.

On a recent visit to
Boerum Hill, his signature meatballs still proved tender and fluffy;
porchetta arrived succulent and yet light on its feet. And an appetizer
of roasted pumpkin got a vibrant dash of chili and honey.

At
the Flatiron outpost, baseball-sized meatballs, leaden with a surplus
of pine nuts and raisins, could’ve doubled as heavy artillery. An
excessively chewy porchetta – pork belly rolled up like a bouche de
noel – was overrun with coriander and mustardo. The pumpkin agro dolce
(sweet and sour) turned up oddly soaked in vinegar with combatant
slivers of red onion.

And there’s just something about
Brooklyn’s resoundingly quaint setting and picturesque window view of
Smith St. that you can’t replicate. Still, Shepard’s ricotta bruschetta
and first-rate pastas are attractive hooks luring a trendy lot to the
lofty, Flatiron setting.

And while entrees proved inconsistent,
dessert proffers a solid selection. A wonderfully simple apple crostata
yields a doughy crust punctuated by crunchy bits of raw sugar, and a
unique rendition of cheesecake employs goat cheese folded with Concord
grapes that manage to permeate each bite.

Lunetta arrives in
Manhattan a watered-down version of the original. Though it has the
promise of a fine chef, it hasn’t yet mastered its inflated, new
domain. Perhaps it should take some kitchen cues from its older, wiser
sibling.

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