I have a confession to make. Every couple of months, typically on a Saturday night, I venture out of JC for a suburban date night. This typically consists of going for drinks, dinner, then a movie. For drinks I will usually go to Houlihan’s for an absurd cocktail. When I say absurd I mean absurd in size, presentation and color. I’m a creature of habit and usually opt for something like the 24 ounces of neon blue adult-juice served out of a cactus, or the 32 ounces of purple drink served out of an actual bucket. This is followed by eating a meal at Carrabba’s or Olive Garden, then to a movie theater with reclining leather seats. When sailing across an unknown ocean, to an uncertain future, this is the America our founding fathers envisioned us having.
The most recent excursion led us to Carrabba’s, where I had the pleasure of ordering one big meatball for dinner. When I say I ordered one big meatball I mean that literally and without subtext. This is not poetic, or a representation of a greater motif. This was not a meta-protest of consumerism in food culture. It was not an attempt to make art. It was one big fucking meatball.
To be honest I was shocked to see it on the menu. It seemed too snarky, almost self-deprecating, and self-awareness isn’t something I associate with Carrabba’s. But there it was in a whacky font like some stoned Chef Boyardee creation: “GIANT STUFFED MEATBALL MAGNIFICO”. In the spirit of consumerism and morbid obesity, I ordered it.
When you go to Carrabba’s, really fast food in general, you are expecting anything pictured to come out drastically different than what’s represented. This is partially because fast food marketing is designed to trick you, but mainly because they want to kill their customers by any means necessary – even with disappointment. But as the waiter made his way to the table I could see his forearms quiver under the impossible heft of 2,300 calories of cheesy meat. His desperate eyes mapping the remaining steps to the table, calculating if he could complete the trip or needed to turn back to refuel. He forged on. At Carrabba’s nothing is given, everything is earned. With a sharp thud he dropped a dish that would likely be my last on to my placemat. There it was, defiantly staring up at my trembling lips, a giant meatball stuffed with cheese, drenched in a pale cheese sauce, then delicately garnished with magnifico (read: parsley).
Hours later I’d be in the theatre – fully reclined – with Amy Adams unassuming yet impressive cleavage gently refracting through the dew of meat-sweat on my grinning forehead. I would softly slip in an out of consciousness over the next two hours, awakened only by the occasional throbbing of an impending cardiac event radiating through my arm. Another satisfied customer.
While I don’t condone any of this behavior, I can’t say I regret it. This is pretty much what I envisioned when I set out to spend a wild night in Secaucus. I’ll be continuing this tradition, though with decreased frequency, because 1) Sharp Objects gives me Amy every Sunday and 2) why go all the way to Carrabba’s when I can just go to Grove St. and eat at Luna.
Who asked for Luna? Don’t we already have a couple Luna’s? For context, Luna is a kinda Italian, kinda New American restaurant where the old new Park & Sixth used to be. I previously wrote about this location in my Dullboy review so feel free to go there for my thoughts on P&S and this location.
I will say that the look of this place is a lot nicer than any previous inhabitant. The whole place has the Chip and Joanna modern rustic thing going on, which I shouldn’t like on principal but cannot deny my inner basic-bitch. This leads me to my biggest question: who is Luna for? Anyone who goes to Luna will be equally satisfied with Cheesecake Factory. You can get better quality pasta for a similar price at Pasta del Cuore (definitely) and Roman Nose (usually). Their happy hour is OK, but you can certainly find something similar or better almost anywhere in JC.
Not every restaurant needs to melt your face, but shouldn’t this location warrant something remarkable? Its two floors, next to Razza, and has a goddamn bank vault in the dining room. There’s a lot to work with. My conclusion is that Luna is a restaurant for people who don’t like food. Or for people who who are beguiled by the rustic charm of two dozen Edison bulbs humming above the bar.
I want do dive a little deeper into what I’ve consumed at Luna because the number of letdowns is pretty remarkable, even impressive.
If I remember correctly, drafts, house wines, and well drinks are $6 on happy hour and two of their signature cocktails are $8. Not terrible.
First time around I actually had a really good, and really affordable, bottle of blended Portuguese red. I’m sure it’s the only one on the menu, so don’t worry about the name. Their wine list as a whole is actually pretty solid and all are under $50 except one bottle, which makes organizing this sentence more difficult than it should be. The beer lines at this place are finally clean and not leaving that buttery taste in your beer like the Merchant or P&S.
Their cocktails are not great and not worth the price unless on special. If you are hitting the happy hour they have Magnify on tap and a gin and lemonade cocktail called the Ahnold Palmer, which is refreshing. The name is regrettable as this drink is neither an Arnold Palmer, nor does it have anything to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger (legit spelled this right on the first attempt, no googling). Even if it was related, lets say its Austrian gin, wouldn’t you change it to Palmuh? The guy can’t pronounce R’s, that’s the joke. Why only do it for half of the name? Wait, where am I?
Your boy took some pics. Here’s the play by play.
Chorizo Risotto Cakes
Not sure where the chorizo is, but its not here. Very small. Not sure why you’d serve this and not have risotto on the menu. Are you just making risotto for the risotto cakes? Is this even risotto or is this just an arancini (yes). For a great example of how to make a risotto cake go to Amelia’s. Don’t buy this.
This was actually pretty good. I mean, a salad with pears and gorgonzola is pretty classic so the bar is incredibly low, but I’m going to be heavy shitting on this place so I want to highlight the achievements, no matter how small. Good lunch option.
Look at this and honestly tell me you’d want to eat it. Despite my eyes better judgment I plowed ahead. Think of fried chicken jerky glazed with the seasoning packet from chicken InstaRamen. Don’t buy this.
These were previously frozen. I will eat shit out of the owners ass if these are made fresh daily. Don’t buy this.
Not sure why this is called “Cajun”. There are no Cajun spices or elements. Is balsamic vinegar Cajun? I’ve seen this done before with better execution, typically with a more balsamic and hot pickled peppers. Also, comically overcooked. Don’t buy this.
I liked these. There was still enough fat attached to the meat to allow for a juicy inside. The innards were adequately seasoned. Go for it.
Your boy did not take some pics because he was too busy ranting about something retrospectively unimportant. Thankfully @nemoeatz saved the day. You will probably notice a pretty stark contrast, further highlighting my inadequacies and his strengths. Follow @nemoeatz.
This should be called Chicken Roulade, but we’re not on fucking Chopped. We chose to order this simply because it was emboldened on the menu with a big gold box, so it has to be good. While this was not terrible, it was not good either, and pretty salty. Rollatini, a prominent item on Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy, is usually just a glorified chicken parm cutlet rolled into form. This, however, is stuffed chicken meatloaf, sliced from some larger mother-loaf. It even has a mushroom gravy. The $20 price point is unreasonable IMO. Don’t buy this.
Cacio e Pepe
If you’re going to do this dish, you’ve got to do it right. You can’t just come close, you have to nail it, otherwise you’re just left with bland noodles. This is not done right. What I did like is that the price point is actually decent at $11 and could be an entree if you’ve gorged yourself on enough discounted appetizers. Additionally the pasta was cooked perfectly.
On the flipside, this dish has the overwhelming taste of raw flour, which is generally not appetizing. Also, they are using a cheap pre-grated Pecorino instead of freshly grated high-quality Pecorino. This is easy to tell by examining the annoying amount of cheese used as a garnish. Given that this dish should only have three ingredients (pepper, Pecorino, pasta) you’d think they’d splurge for the good stuff. Caveat emptor.
The tiny bits of short rib in this ragu were really tasty. The pasta was overcooked and under-seasoned. Very analogous to the type of Hospitaliano you can expect adjacent to your county mall. This is by far the most social media hyped dish, which makes sense when you see how good these pastas look. Evil walks among us. Don’t buy it.
Espresso Short Ribs
This was actually pretty good. The sauce is well balanced, the espresso adds a welcome bitterness next to the sweetness of the sauce and floral tones of the chilis. The mashed potatoes are watery and literally flavorless, but the meat is really what your ordering. Maybe opt to sub out the potatoes for handful of paper mache. Buy this, but sub out the side.
New York Steak
There’s a lot to unpack here. This was by far the most treacherous steak I’ve ever consumed. You may say think you know what a New York Steak is, but you’re almost certainly wrong. First, a New York Steak is not a New York Strip. You can spot the difference between the two fairly easily. The New York Strip is cut from the strip loin section of the sirloin and is easily identified as the tastier half of a Porterhouse. The New York Steak is a fictional, and likely the physical manifestation of some Ayahuasca induced Bobby Flay fever dream. I’m a pretty knowledgeable carnivore and I’m not actually sure what cut this is. Its shaped kinda like a ribeye, but it’s probably really cheap loin meat.
I order my steaks rare because I’m a savage. I’m being gracious when I say the steak came out medium-well. This is a borderline unforgivable sin. I would have sent it back but after a bottle of wine on a nearly empty stomach I would have probably ate a live possum.
Also, as I posited on social media the night of the incident, this self-proclaimed DRY RUBBED steak came out practically submerged in some sweet syrupy sauce. I’ve noticed this with a lot of their big protein dishes – they’re all fucking slathered in some shitty sauce. I like some sauce, but when I noticed the potatoes building an Ark and herding the peppers two by two, it was a subtle signal that they overdid it.
I don’t actually think this dish was made in the kitchen, instead it was likely birthed out of Guy Fieri’s prolapsed anus like so many syrupy steaks and alien eggs and cheese covered flip-flops before it. Having your big ticket protein swimming in sauce should signal to the diner that both a) our kitchen is unreliable and will probably not cook this correctly; and b) the quality of this meat is subpar and will not stand on its own. Unfortunately a customer will not get this signal because the menu calls it a fucking DRY RUBBED steak with no mention of the WET SHIT that has invaded the plate. Change the dish or the description.
With all of this said, I will recommend something I’ve never done before. Instead of spending your money at a local restaurant like Luna, go spend your money at a big evil mall food conglomerate like Olive Garden or Carrabba’s. You will thank me later. Now, we just need to let nature take its course and wish that Luna’s inevitable death will be swift and relatively painless.
Nice Things Rating:
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