Caffé Luna: The best Italian cuisine in downtown Raleigh


In America, people can occasionally pigeonhole Italian cuisine into either spaghetti or pizza; Caffé Luna clearly breaks the stereotype.

Settled on E. Hargett Street between Blount and Wilmington streets downtown, Caffé Luna’s bright, neon sign caught my eyes immediately and drew me to its cozy interior, away from the chilly fall air. Upon entering the restaurant, I was struck by the plethora of oil paintings covering the creamy, yellow walls. The high ceiling gave the place a comfortable atmosphere, and my table was nicely situated in the back corner of one of the many dining rooms that altogether seat 200.

Everyone working at Caffé Luna was gracious and nice; the owner constantly walked around and checked on all the tables, talking with everybody. Without even glancing at the menu, I already liked the place.

Once I looked over the menu, I found many great Italian dishes. The antipasti and insalata dishes look incredible by themselves, featuring dishes like mozzarella fresca — fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil — and insalata di Gorgonzola — mesclun greens with gorgonzola cheese. The entrees, like a traditional lasagna or veal parmesan, all looked fantastic, but it was the pasta on the menu that really stole the show.

The menu’s pasta section had everything — ravioli fiorentina, pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach, or even linguini pescatore, calamari, shrimp, mussels, clams and a scallop sauté in olive oil and tomato.

After pondering each individual dish, I settled on the fiocchi, described as “fresh pasta stuffed with four Italian cheeses and pear sauté in cream with a touch of tomato”. After envious encouragement from my server, I waited for my dish, happy with it.

It wasn’t long before I saw a steaming plate of pasta covered in white cream sauce coming towards me. I accepted the parmesan my server offered and took a bite.

Heretofore, I have never had a pasta dish as good as the fiocchi.

The savoriness of the cheeses mixed with the sweetness of the pear sauté offered a blend of flavors incomparable to any spaghetti with marinara. It was creamy and rich, the “touch of tomato” offering a break from the sinful cream sauce. The dish was executed perfectly.

I’d completely stuffed myself with pasta, but I requested the dessert menu anyway, unsure whether I would actually order anything. Upon seeing the names of rich foods like tiramisu or chocolate gelato, I had to abstain, but I was completely sure I’d be back again.

Caffé Luna exceeded my expectations with phenomenal food and service. It makes a perfect destination for any lunch or dinner downtown.


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