Bistro Mezzaluna was the first non fast-food restaurant I went to in Fort Lauderdale; while I was down here looking at real estate I had a date and I had to turn to Zagat to find a place. They consistently got high scores in Zagat, back in the days when sites like this didn't exist. I don't recall what we ordered; I was still used to New York food and I remember being unimpressed with the place.
A couple of years later I went back, again on a date, before I started exploring surrounding restaurants. I had the veal medallions, which were ok but nothing exceptional. My date had salmon on some disorganized greens that seemed healthy, but not particularly inspiring. They tried to seat us in front of the kitchen in a largely empty restaurant, and then moved us to a tablejump--> with a broken chair. I went back for happy hour after that; they had a very small, cramped bar at their previous location, and I had a pretty good bowl of penne pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe.
My impression of Bistro Mezzaluna was that they weren't as good as they thought they were; their prices were too high for an uncomfortable restaurant with good but not great food. A small restaurant with a long-time following in a town with few good restaurants can easily get such an impression of itself.
So when they moved to a big new place last November, I was wondering what they were thinking. I stopped in for happy hour when they first opened; I didn't realize how large the new space was. It's 4 times the size of their old place; the bar area was a big, separate room with a piano and multiple big TVs; as big as some restaurants all by itself.
The happy hour is a good deal but I've been meaning to try lunch since they started serving in February. A stormy day and an inept review in another publication motivated me to give it a try.
One good thing about the new location is that there's plenty of parking. There's no valet at lunch time, but that's fine. Valets are an annoyance when half of the lot is pre-allocated. I got a spot right out front, and I don't need someone opening my door for me. The entrance is grandiose; the hostess doesn't have much to do so she was in the bar. I asked for a table in the dining room to get the full experience. The good thing is that the place was empty, so I landed a nice comfy booth in the corner.
The dining room is elegant and modern; not over done although the flowers seemed a bit much.
They have the coolest menu in town here; the restaurant is fairly dark but when you open the menu it's backlit with a bluish tint. Very easy on the eyes. The music didn't seem to fit the atmosphere, with Owl City, Helen Reddy and Carley Simon joining Dan Fogelberg in an unlikely lineup.
My server ran through the specials; he didn't tell me the prices so I didn't consider them as choices; a pet peeve of mine (what if the steak sandwich turned out to be $25?). I was fully expecting to order the Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, but I thought I might try something else also. $8 for soup. $10 for a salad. Then I saw that they had oysters for "a buck a shuck". So I ordered 6 of those.
A runner dropped off some bread. There's no waiting here. Iced tea came out quickly also.
Nice warm rolls, plenty of butter. I didn't want much bread. The oysters came out on a big dish filled with ice. These babies were really cold.
The first thing I noticed was that the tray smelled really bad; then I noticed the vinegar; I assumed that it was a mignonette, although I didn't see too many shallots floating around. No matter, I wouldn't ruin an oyster with that stuff. They give you ketchup and horseradish in separate containers so you can make it as hot as you like it; I made it pretty hot. Some lemon juice and you're in heaven. Not bad for $6. As i finished #6, the pasta came out.
It had shaved parmesan on top but they offered some grated and I accepted; I don't get the shaved cheese; I don't want to eat a chunk of parmesan cheese. For once, this dish was competently prepared, with the rabe cooked just long enough to release most of the bitterness. There was good mild italian sausage. I prefer this with rigatoni or orecchiette (little ears), but this was fine. I left half of the pasta anyway as I'm low-carbing it. At dinner this dish is $22 and they give you a bigger portion, but this was just enough. Considering some of the crazy prices on their menu, at $12 this is a good deal, considering the whole experience.
The service here is professional, my server was milling about trying to keep on eye on his tables with bothering anyone. Water and iced tea were refilled regularly.
This lunch cost $22, which when you consider that I paid $20 at Bubba Gump last week, isn't too bad (although I remember a time when $5 lunches were normal). While their dinner prices are as high as any restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, they're more justifiable at this location. This is a beautiful restaurant; a true special occasion venue, and I'm willing to pay a little bit more for a first class experience.
The big problem with this place is it's size; filling a place this size at their price point is no small task. Moving to a place 4 times the size requires cultivating a lot of new business, in a town where underemployment is the norm and budgets are tight. That being said, this is as nice a restaurant as there is in Fort Lauderdale.