[Sidebar] July 15 - 22, 1999
[Food Reviews]
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Cafe Luna

Fresh flavors and abundant servings

by Dawn Keable

22 Midway Rd., Cranston, 944-1438 Open Mon 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Tues-Sat until 9 p.m., Sun 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Table service Tues-Sat, 5-9 p.m.
Major credit cards
Handicapped access

Just back from our honeymoon in the tropics -- where dining al fresco is the norm -- my brand new husband, Andre, and I have become a bit obsessed with this island tradition. The natives are diehards about eating outside. Fortunately, our return home wasn't traumatic since it coincided with the height of the summer patio season. Looking to maintain the al fresco mode, we headed straight to Cafe Luna, which offers a generous expanse of sidewalk for open-air dining in the heart of the Garden City shopping district.

After several rounds of musical chairs, searching in vain for protection from the sun, we settled in to peruse the Italian menu. Sure, there's air-conditioning inside, but outside on the black metal bistro chairs is the place to be; the casual plaza atmosphere is a great spot to people-watch. And the greenery separating the adjacent restaurant, along with the window boxes, awning and sounds of light jazz, only adds to the mood.

Andre started with a glass of chardonnay ($3.95), while I went with an iced coffee ($1.50). In a matter of seconds, we experienced the potential problems of dining outdoors. First, a fly mistook Andre's glass for home. On the other side of the table, my ice cubes were quickly melting in the heat. Happily, the waitress quickly brought me another glass of cubes. And thankfully, we didn't have to fight anything for the basket of deliciously crusty Italian bread on our table.

Our entire meal came from the extensive menu of specials. For starters, Andre chose a cup of pasta and bean soup ($1.85). Featuring lentil beans and an abundant meaty flavor, the slightly spicy tomato-based soup was light and delicious. I munched on a very fresh side salad, which came with my dinner, of mesclun greens, red onion, sliced cherry tomatoes, green pepper, and red cabbage, tossed in the house dressing -- a sweet honey vinaigrette.

Andre opted for the grilled chicken special ($9.95) for his main course. Bursting with color, the dish had a vibrant summertime look and taste. Served with a mild salsa of green olives and tomato, the two thick juicy breast halves had a smoky backyard grilled flavor. A generous serving of roasted sweet and Yukon gold potatoes provided a nice flavor contrast to the kick of the salsa. Rounding off the vegetable medley were broccoli crowns, honey-glazed carrot medallions and a piece of corn on the cob.

My dish, the vegetable lasagna special ($9.50), also featured the best of the season. Delicious layers of sauteed mushroom, summer squash, spinach and ricotta cheese were topped with a chunky tomato sauce and garnished with scallions, all bursting with farm-fresh flavor. The dish was accompanied by sides of crisp asparagus stalks and more of those broccoli crowns and sliced carrots. Again, it was more than enough for a second feast.

Dessert was an equal taste sensation. Andre went with a slice of Kahlua sombrero cake ($3.25). Sandwiched between three layers of ultra-moist dark chocolate cake, a very light whipped cream frosting offered a blast of coffee flavor. The creation was topped with caramel and chocolate crunchies.

For me, the smooth, rich, dense chocolate chip cheesecake ($3.25) had plenty of mini-chips in the mix. Coupled with a moist chocolate cake-like crust, this confection had the right stuff to satisfy every kind of sweet tooth craving.

Best of all, after our fresh air dining experience, we only had to push back our chairs for a short waddle, er, walk to the car. Now, if we could only figure out a way to protect ourselves from the elements when winter comes.

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