Was Bistro Mezzaluna's Move to a Bigger Space a Smart Idea?

According to urban legend, 90 percent of restaurants fail within the first year. Studies say that figure is more like 60 percent, but still — the economy these past few years hasn't done the industry any favors; many eateries that are not shuttering their doors or barely holding on have been taking out obscene loans, hiring celebrity chefs to generate buzz, or demeaning themselves with desperate appearances on reality TV.

So what did Bistro Mezzaluna do in the face of this economic downturn? In September, it vacated its space in a shopping plaza on 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale and hauled all its stuff across the street into a freestanding, two-story building that's 14,000 square feet — more than four times the size of its old locale. The new space boasts two separate dining areas, one patio equipped with a tiered fountain, a spacious piano bar, and three banquet rooms on the second floor.

Was it a smart move?

Pan-roasted yellowtail snapper.
Pan-roasted yellowtail snapper.

Location Info

Map

Bistro Mezzaluna

1821 SE 10th Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Fort Lauderdale

Details

Bistro Mezzaluna, 1821 SE Tenth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-522-9191. Open Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 5 to 11 p.m., and Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.

Homemade meatballs, $12

Maryland crab cake, $14

Pear salad, $10

Goat cheese ravioli, $25

Rigatoni alla Bolognese, $22

Pan-roasted yellowtail snapper, $36

Bistro's crumb apple pie, $10

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"You from around here?" our waiter casually asked as we settled into an intimate booth. He had come to greet us almost immediately upon our arrival. Wearing a solid-white apron atop his dark, checkered tie and crisp shirt, he carefully poured two glasses of iced water.

I looked down at my own clothes self-consciously, searching for the misleading clue that led our waiter to think we were tourists. "Yes, we're locals. Why do you ask?"

He chuckled while passing us two of the restaurant's heavy, black, faux-leather menus. "You're about 20 to 30 years younger than our regular crowd."

So maybe he was exaggerating in order to flatter us, but except for a runway of college students heading up the stairs for a 21st-birthday party in one of the dining rooms, the weekend dinner crowd definitely resembled characters straight off the set of a Crestor commercial. There was no après-beach crowd in tube tops, no flip-flopped tourists looking for cheap drink specials.

The setting was not exactly exciting — mellow lighting, wooden blinds, beige walls, large-scale paintings of the Italian Riviera. Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It" emerging from the speakers. During the weekend, there's a piano player.

But one person's "boring" is another's "lovely and well-appointed," and I appreciated the extravagant tropical flower arrangements, with peaks of red ginger flowers and anthuriums, that lined the entrance. White-linen tablecloths adorned every immaculate table. And when the wait staff was quick to refold my black napkin on each instance that I left my leather seat, I felt well taken care of.

With service so attentive, I began to think this place wouldn't need any gimmicks, but when we opened the heavy dinner menus, a steady stream of cyan LED light emerged from their pages, a shade of vibrant blue kissing each diner's face. This little technological surprise felt cheesy, but neighboring diners consistently giggled with surprise while opening the menu's pages.

Menu items were American and Italian classics — buffalo mozzarella salad, caesar salad, pasta alla Bolognese, shrimp scampi, surf and turf, and apple pie. The wine list was impressive — more than 300 bottles. Prices were not out of reach, but they swung high, with almost every dish, including appetizers, in the double digits and entrées pushing $40.

Tender, sweet, homemade dinner rolls from the breadbasket were so hot and fresh that steam came out and I almost burned my fingers tearing one apart. A pear salad with mixed greens, blue cheese, and candied walnuts ($10) could easily be shared as an appetizer between two diners. An order of the homemade meatball appetizer ($12) translated to three tender balls doused in a hearty pomodoro, topped with a thick scoop of ricotta cheese.

A member of the wait staff mistakenly served us an order of the buffalo mozzarella appetizer ($12). After an apology, we were told to enjoy the complimentary insalata caprese, a delicate salad with roasted red peppers and a modest portion of mixed greens. The plate was the dullest of our meal; it lacked olive oil and had a side of unadorned mixed greens. We took one bite, set it aside, and eagerly awaited the Maryland crab cake ($14).

The anticipated single cake arrived atop a roasted corn and pepper relish. A dabble of cilantro tartar sauce was smudged on the plate as well but tasted rather flavorless. Though the three-inch crab cake was delectable, there could have been more crab. Some bites were delightful, packed with protein. Others gave us mouthfuls of filler and breading.

Pastas feature mostly meat or seafood. We enjoyed the rigatoni alla Bolognese ($22), a rich mixture of veal, pork, and beef, simmered low and slow with tomato and cream. Wilted leaves of fresh basil streamed through the dish, adding bursts of fragrance to the very best bites. Mezzalunas of goat cheese ravioli ($25) were stuffed with the tangy cheese and chewy sun-dried tomatoes. Dressed in butter basil sauce, the lovely ravioli swam amid a lush foliage of herbs an roasted tomatoes. But the stuffed pasta is not made in-house, and the pancetta in the sauce was not rendered sufficiently. Both servings of pasta were big enough for two and arrived with a ridiculous sprinkling of minced parsley. The kitchen seemed as enthusiastic about this garnish as the wait staff was at offering freshly cracked pepper and Parmesan cheese.

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2 comments
Jenn
Jenn

Right on, Matt. I'm neither a hater nor a fan of Bistro Mezzaluna, but this dated gonzo journalism has got to go. Jen Karetnick did it well, and all the reviewers after her have tried to mimic her style and failed dismally. It's not even about the restaurant anymore. I am so sick of listening to hipster wannabe "writers" who ramble on about themselves. It's not cute, clever, nor interesting. Give it a rest already.

 

If Emily were actually a good writer, she wouldn't have to distract with all the cutesy observations and would focus on doing an actual review. Sun-dried tomatoes are "chewy"? Really?

 

On to the next, please, New Times. She is awful.

Matt
Matt

Sorry, but what bland writing.......

 
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