By Laine Doss
By Ily Goyanes
By Camille Lamb
By Laine Doss
By David Minsky
By Emily Codik
By Zachary Fagenson
By Laine Doss
Oh, Lord, not another Italian restaurant!"
"Yes, Bill, another Italian restaurant. But be of good faith and despair not, for verily and forsooth I say unto you that you will not have to consume one more crappy caesar salad — I can see Julius rotating in his grave already — nor will the mark of shrimp scampi or lasagna or tiramisu be upon your digestive tract. For I am as sick of that stuff as you are; after all, I've been around a helluva lot longer. So go forth and eat something different, and remember this break I've cut you the next time I send a hurricane your way."
Okay, so maybe it didn't go quite like that, but it could have. Dine around our little corner of paradise for any length of time and it becomes scarily obvious that you could eat the same hoary old Italian standbys, all prepared the same way with the same general disinterest, at a different restaurant every day for a month, and all you'd wind up with is a closetful of tomato sauce-stained shirts and an abiding love for sushi.
9477 S. Dixie Highway
Pinecrest, FL 33156
Region: East Kendall/Pinecrest
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Which is why I begged the Higher Powers (also known as my editors) that if I had to review yet another of the 12 bazillion Italian restaurants in Miami and environs, to let me eat at one where the menu wasn't written by Ubiquitous in conjunction with Boring and Predictable. That's how I ended up at Trattoria Luna.
Now, before anyone puts a sawed-off horse head on my pillow, there's nothing wrong with a good caesar salad, shrimp scampi, et al., and Trattoria Luna offers them, as well as other standard and perhaps not-quite-so-standard dishes. But what I like about this crowded, bustling, cheerily bemuraled little place is that you can eat ever so slightly outside the lines that seem to define so much of what passes for Italian cookery in South Florida.
And you can eat well if not spectacularly. Tuna carpaccio is a lighter take on the typical gossamer slices of raw beef; being that tuna is quite reasonably known as the beef of the sea, it's a sensible interpretation. Here the thin, almost translucent wafers come gilded with a sort of Italian salsa, containing unusually ripe tomatoes, capers, shallots, and a squirt of lemon.
Vitello tonnato is a personal favorite and a dish well suited to our perpetually hot and humid summers. A rich tuna mayonnaise, typically enlivened with capers and anchovy, is draped over thin (but not translucent) slices of cold roasted veal, a contrast of flavors and textures that makes more sense in your mouth than it does on paper.
Pastas include all the usual culinary suspects, but Luna also turns out some above-average gnocchi. It's light if not levitating, and is devoid of the gumminess that makes this elemental blend of potato, flour, and egg yolk a second cousin to library paste. The diminutive barrels come awash in a sea of creamy, garlicky pesto good enough to eat alone with a spoon.
Carnivores should check Luna's chalkboard of daily specials for the marvelous pork shank with risotto. The huge Paleolithic hunk of meat and bone is braised until the flesh falls apart with merely a stern look and melts in the mouth like pork-flavor ice cream. The risotto, simply flavored with Parmesan, is like the general run of restaurant risotto — passable but lacking the unctuous natural creaminess that results from long and constant stirring.
God swore I wouldn't have to finish with tiramisu, so I chose zabaglione. Like gnocchi, it's a dish as delightful and uncomplicated as it is difficult to perfect. This, too, was good, not great, with a texture more like crème anglaise than the airy froth of the finest versions. On the other hand, She kept Her promise, for which I give many thanks.