Volume Control 

Big is good, but better is better.

On a recent weekday evening in sparsely populated dining rooms, we started with the Luna antipasto sampler of 10 items ($9.99). There were winners — crumb-stuffed roasted red peppers and mushrooms, and spicy marinated olives. There were also a couple of disappointments, including arancini (deep-fried rice balls that look like little oranges) and caprese, which in spite of Hanover tomatoes and homemade mozzarella, needed olive oil and fresh basil. Other appetizers and salads are standard offerings.

It is customary in Italy to have a pasta/soup course before the second plate, as the entree is called. Because most Americans prefer pasta as the main dish rather than as a course to precede it, the servings in most restaurants are large and priced accordingly. We mistakenly ordered a family portion for two, which was handsomely presented in a large copper skillet, and we had more than half to take home. Summery penne caprese and the promise of Hanover tomatoes sounded perfect for an August evening, but apparently the kitchen had run out of fresh basil, which deprived the dish of an essential and defining flavor.

The entrees ($13.99-$19.99) consist of chicken, veal, beef and shrimp. Chicken cacciatore (hunter style) is an Italian menu cliché, and although it tries something different, Pasta Luna doesn't improve on it. Thin slices of chicken sauté were buried under a mound of diced tomato sauce (suspiciously like the caprese sauce) without other distinguishing characteristics. Filet mignon Giambotta sounded interesting: filet mignon, chicken, sweet sausage, mushrooms, peppers and potatoes. But if you are imagining something like a mixed grill, which I did, you will be disappointed. It was closer to a stir-fry, with bits of each of the components. Unfortunately, the thin-sliced beef was well-done and uncharacteristically tough for beef tenderloin.

The luncheon menu has many of the same pastas and entrees, but expands the salad offerings and adds sandwiches to the list. We liked the shrimp parmigiana on focaccia — perfectly cooked large shrimp with a melt of cheese and a touch of tomato on tender bread. A pasta dish of tough penne with eggplant in a rather acidic tomato sauce instead of the advertised Hanover tomatoes was disappointing.

The servers bring a dessert tray ($5.49 each) to the table with most of the day's offerings. Be tempted and try one. The two we chose were very good. The chocolate-dipped cannoli were not exactly the light dessert that might follow a heavy meal, but these were delicious, as was a wedge of cherry torte with a dollop of whipped cream.

The menu suggests that Pasta Luna specializes in rustic Neapolitan cuisine; the Web site proclaims Northern Italian. They are not the same thing. It's difficult to tell if the management has a real point of view or is playing to the crowd. It takes some of both to make a true and lasting success. The new offspring perhaps needs to master basics and consistency if it's going to fill all those tables. S

Pasta Luna South ($$)
5000 Commonwealth Centre Parkway, Midlothian
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Thursday 4:30-10 p.m.; Friday 4:30-11 p.m.; Saturday 4-11 p.m.; Sunday 4-9 p.m.

Letters to the editor may be sent to: letters@styleweekly.com



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

  • Re: Food Review: With a Menu of Chinese-American Standbys, Beijing on Grove Delivers Another Family Favorite

    • Thank you! It's been corrected!

    • on July 20, 2017
  • Re: Food Review: With a Menu of Chinese-American Standbys, Beijing on Grove Delivers Another Family Favorite

    • God, I love a publication that doesn't keep reminding me of how many articles I…

    • on July 20, 2017
  • Re: 2017 Richmond Restaurant of the Year: Nota Bene

    • Just to be clear, the restaurants referred to above are not just fine, they are…

    • on July 20, 2017
  • More »
  • Latest in Restaurant Review

    More by Davis Morton

    • Glass Houses

      Glass Houses

      Bin 22 and Enoteca Sogno show Richmonders two different ways to savor wine.
      • Mar 1, 2006
    • Attractive Abundance

      Attractive Abundance

      Diets notwithstanding, perhaps it's time to reconsider the buffet.
      • Jan 11, 2006
    • Tropical Allure

      Tropical Allure

      Spices of the islands and a tireless chef conjure a getaway downtown.
      • Nov 30, 2005
    • More »

    Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation