Every restaurant has its calling card that something special that pulls you in; ideally it’s the food but many times it’s the service; how you’re treated that keeps you coming back for more. Caffe Luna Rosa in Delray Beach is one such place. Since 1993 Luna Rosa has been pulling in the crowds, yes because of the food but also because of how you’re treated and valued as a guest. And this is because it’s a small family run business. Not family in the biological sense but with the majority of employees clocking in 13+ years at the restaurant, freely speaking, it’s a family run business. Every employee takes his/her job very seriously. Each staff member knows their responsibility as the cog in the wheel.
I’ve been to Luna Rosa many times, for the infamous weekend breakfast, and for a very memorable Veal Chop dinner a time or two, but it was meeting and talking with Ernie DiBlasi, executive chef and partner at my Chefs Panel event last month at the Delray Beach Wine and Seafood Festival that prompted me to go back for a visit. What many people don’t know about Luna Rosa is that each dish is painstakingly made with the utmost pride and top of the line quality ingredients. This open air, oceanfront restaurant can easily be dismissed as a comely beachside Italian restaurant but local residents and longtime visitors know otherwise. DiBlasi and team have quite a gem on their hands that they consistently polish bringing it to a sparkling sheen.
Weekend breakfast at Luna Rosa is an enigma unto itself, has been for years; don’t believe me? ask any of the 30+ people standing in line at A1A and Atlantic Avenue on Saturday or Sunday between the hours of 8:30-11:30am and listen to what they have to say. DiBlasi and his staff, both front and back of the house have consistently, and efficiently served breakfast to scores residents and tourists of Delray for years. And this is what just might be the magic to its success, Luna Rosa is where everyone wants to be. No matter how good the food and service is, no one wants to go to an empty restaurant. The line of people waiting to get a table weekend after weekend for Belgian waffles, Eggs Benedict and such is simply staggering.
Dinner is a little different, while people aren’t lined up two by two on A1A to get a seat for dinner, they slowly trickle in, and by 8:00 pm on any given night, the restaurant is full and the bar occupied with a host of regulars. Ernie told me at the Chef’s Panel event that he built an enclosed showcase area in the dining room where he makes fresh pasta daily. This showcase area sports a glass front for guests in the dining room to watch DiBlasi master his craft. And sure enough, the “pasta platform” is a huge success and quite the drawing card. All of the pasta on the menu is handmade by DiBlasi himself. It goes without saying that fresh pasta trumps pre-packaged but it’s the sauces at Luna Rosa that brings the simple flour, water, and egg mixture to life. The classics such as marinara, Alfredo, and Bolognese all have their place on the menu that appeal to the masses but it’s the creative, and whimsical specials that WOW! And keep people coming back for more.
The wine list is impressive. Small, not overloaded with generic supermarket wines but wines carefully chosen to compliment the many dishes on the menu. Small inventory, moderate to moderate-plus in price, and the wines move. I ordered a glass of Chianti, and asked how long the bottle had been open, the bartender told me an open bottle doesn’t last long at Luna Rosa, they’re constantly pouring. Which was music to my ears, there’s nothing worse to me than a bottle of red wine that’s been open for days, improperly stored, and a restaurant still trying to sell it by the glass. Rest assured wine enthusiasts, this is not the case at Luna Rosa.
Twenty one years. Caffe Luna Rosa is obviously doing something right. They have a week night happy hour, 2:1 drinks and a discounted bar menu, nightly music, a monthly wine dinner, and other food and drink promotions to lure you in. With the vast amount of restaurant competition on and off Atlantic Avenue long-term presence is to be highly regarded, and apparently for Luna Rosa it is.
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