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BWW Preview: BELLA LUNA 2.0 Now Open on the Upper West Side


Beloved neighborhood Italian restaurant Bella Luna has reopened in its new location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with the same traditional Italian dishes residents and visitors have come to love for nearly 30 years, as well as some brand new selections, including pizza baked in a traditional brick oven.

Bella Luna was founded in 1988 by owner Turgut Balikci, who has drawn from his Turkish roots to develop 20 of his European-influenced and Mediterranean-inspired restaurants, from former Diva on West Broadway to current Upper West Side Mediterranean spot Bodrum. Bella Luna is an extension of Balikci's passion for European cuisine and connecting with people, a combination that allows Bella Luna to fill a niche on the Upper West Side with classic Italian food in a family-friendly and comfortable setting. Completing the Bella Luna team is managing partner and former 10-year general manager Guray Yuksel, and manager Angela Noll, who has worked with Balikci for years and brings renewed energy into the established venue.

The new location was built in 1893 and has experienced various transformations, from a general market in the 1890s to a speakeasy/restaurant by the late William Pogue during and after Prohibition, from 1933 until 1968. Most recently in the 1990s, the space was a flower shop, aptly named Secret Garden, hiding within its walls a gem of a mural of Central Park in autumn, believed to be painted in the 1930s, and preserved by former residents with a boarded up wall. During the Bella Luna renovations, the mural was uncovered in a surprise revealing, conveying the "Old-Modern" sensibility of the restaurant. The mural was restored by American artist Mark Rutkoski. The new interior is designed by Daniel Lee of QBIK Construction, to evoke a warm and rustic space. Decór elements include some of the same pieces from the original Bella Luna, such as leather and velvet banquets, and mahogany table tops with wrought-iron table bases by Italian artist Arturo Di Modica, who famously created and installed the Charging Bull in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Six of the original marble eggshell chandeliers hang from the ceiling, emitting a golden-hued glow to add to the warmth of the interior. Additionally, the new space offers intriguing details like exposed brick walls which serves as the backdrop to the newly installed bar, arched windows.

Executive Chef German "Primo" Angelo continues to helm the kitchen after 10 years at Bella Luna, after learning the intricacies of Italian cuisine from original Bella Luna chef of 25 years, Tuscany-born Mario Zimbelli. Simple Italian classics are featured throughout the menu, with appetizers like Beef Carpaccio, razor-thin slices of raw beef with olive oil, lemon, capers, arugula, and parmesan, and salads such as the Sicilian with fennel, radicchio, lettuce, capers, olives, parmesan, olive oil and lemon. Specialty pasta dishes include inspired creations like Tri-Color Tortellini filled with cheese and tossed with prosciutto, garden peas and alfredo sauce, and signature Lamb Pappardelle in a savory lamb ragú sprinkled with parmesan cheese. The brand new brick oven pizzas will feature combinations such as the Bella Luna, a savory blend of wild mushrooms, onion, fontina and truffle oil, and the Prosciutto di Parma with tender slices of prosciutto, arugula and sliced strips of fresh parmesan. Entrées involve meats like veal and chicken, uniquely served in the style of your choice, of marsala, piccata, or parmesan, and Braised Lamb Shanks, slow-cooked to fork tenderness with buttery mashed potatoes.

Italian classics are available for dessert, such as Tiramisu and Tartufo, vanilla and chocolate ice cream with a cherry nut center coated in a semi-sweet chocolate shell.

A predominantly Italian wine list is now available. Selections range from chianti selections from Tuscany and barbaresco from Piedmont, to whites like gavi from Piedmont and verdeca from Puglia. They also offer a diverse set of global beers that include Peroni and Heineken. Happy Hour will be offered all day, every day and includes $7 house wine of montepulciano or pinot grigio.

Bella Luna is located at 574 Columbus Avenue between 87th and 88th Streets, New York, NY 10024. Call them at 212-877-2267 and visit their web site at www.bellalunanycom. They are available for catering and take-out. Hours of operation are Sunday-Thursday dinner from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday dinner from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bella Luna

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