Photography by Wes Battoclette
In cooking, there are certain journeys to be made – trials and errors, attempts at perfection and improving upon existing recipes to make them even better. From the child who helps mom make dinner to the critically acclaimed chef, this is a journey that doesn’t really end – instead it shifts and changes.
This is a journey that Harry Stephens, owner of Bella Luna, knows all too well. Like any restaurateur, Stephens constantly has his ears open for new recipes and new ideas for the authentic Italian restaurant. But recently, he realized, Bella Luna’s evolution was just beginning.
“We have never rested on our laurels,” he says. “We are in a constant state of trying to make things better, and be more authentic when we can.” Recently, Stephens took a trip to Italy, where his family hails from, and realized that authentic Italian food looked a bit different from many of the dishes on Bella Luna’s menu.
“On his trip to Italy, Harry noticed that the authentic Italian food was more about a quality presentation of the food groups – not just heavy pastas and sauces,” says Mike Grogan, chef at Bella Luna who says he’s excited about the new menu. “I fell in love with this place just walking in the front door. It feels like you’re just walking into Harry’s kitchen – and he is here often, spending time with each and every diner.”
The new menu has been in place long enough that Stephens is able to gauge the dishes that diners are gravitating towards. “The boar is a grand slam,” he says – and what might take a more adventurous soul – the octopus dish seems to intimidate some. But the biggest change is that each dish is crafted so that each ingredient or spice that goes into it can be tasted.
“We’re starting to become more concerned with being able to taste every element – not just sauces,” says Stephens. “In the past, like many Italian restaurants, we were over-saucing. When we were in Italy, we took recipes from restaurants we dined in and bought cookbooks written by locals.”
In addition to the boar and octopus, new menu items include a number of options for a variety of diners and culinary tastes. Not brave enough to order the octopus? Maybe try the pici – like fat spaghetti, the Tuscan dish is familiar to American palates but offers a touch of new flavor as well.
Although Bella Luna has turned this new page in its journey, don’t expect to see Stephens or his team slow down any time soon. “Bella Luna continues to evolve. We’re always working to stay committed to who we are and what we do, while constantly evolving,” says Stephens.
Bella Luna is located at 4632 Eastern Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45226. You can reach them at 513.871.5862 or visit their website at bellalunacincy.com.