THIS COZY OLD BRIDGE EATERY SERVES TRADITIONAL ITALIAN STAPLES WITH A CONTEMPORARY TWIST
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
More than 30 years ago, the Leone and Nuccio families started selling muffuletta style sandwiches at a small stand during Brooklyn’s 18th Avenue Feast. Skilled in the kitchen and fueled by a love of cooking, the budding restaurateurs offered no menu, instead layering all the thinly sliced Italian cold cuts on demand. Their delicacies became so popular they soon opened a small sandwich shop, and Café Luna was born.
“The original Café Luna in Staten Island was founded by my mother and father and aunt and uncle,” noted Vinny Nuccio, referring to the storied restaurant’s owners: Vincent and Josephine Nuccio and Sal and Michele Leone. “They had such a passion for good food and for hosting. They opened a restaurant so they could cook and serve all of their favorite dishes seven days a week. Almost immediately, it grew from a small café to a fine dining establishment.”
The couples enjoyed success for ten years, and in 2000 they opened a second location in Tottenville. Then in 2010, they brought their authentic Sicilian cuisine to a pocket of New Jersey hungry for it.
“We had so many customers move to New Jersey who were coming back and forth across the bridge just to eat at Café Luna each week,” said Nuccio. “So we decided to bring Café Luna to them.”
After finding a spot in Old Bridge, the family completely renovated the space to create a modern but traditional ambiance. Located on Route 9, the restaurant features a romantic “under the stars” dining area and an upscale lounge style bar. The classic Café Luna menu, desserts, and extensive wine list all made the trek to the new location.
“We had so many custom offers move to New Jersey who were coming back and forth across the bridge just to eat at Café Luna each week.”
“Our margherita pizza is one of a kind and our pounded veal parmesan and tomahawk steak are two of our most popular dishes,” said Nuccio. “The lobster mac and cheese and pork chops Siciliano are highly rated, too.”
The focus is on fresh ingredients, Nuccio explained. Creamy burrata is topped with roasted peppers, prosciutto, and crushed pistachios. Calamari is crisp and served five different ways. The menu is filled with ample diversity, too traditional Italian fare is interspersed with a spicy tuna pizza, buffalo wing app, and parmigiano truffle chips.
“We like to keep things very innovative,” said Nuccio, describing his newest creation: Italian nachos topped with broccoli rabe, sausage, fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, and ricotta salata.
“We offered Italian egg rolls before they became played out and always change up the specials to bring our guests something new and fun. This is traditional Italian with a modern twist.”
But Nuccio’s main focus is to provide fine dining at an affordable price point. “Everything we serve is top quality but our prices are reasonable,” he said. “Café Luna has always been a family focused atmosphere. Our restaurant allows you to take your family out and not break the bank.”
The veal chop is shareable, the tiramisu is homemade, and the customers are considered part of the family.
“Our customers are simply incredible,” said Nuccio. “It wasn’t easy for anyone in the restaurant industry to survive this past year. The coronavirus shook us to the core. But our customers were so supportive throughout the entire ordeal. We reinvented together and made it through. We are so appreciative and blessed to have our wonderful guests walk through that door once again.