Mezzaluna, the large and colorful eatery on Main Street in Downtown Hendersonville, got its thematic inspiration from Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Local artist Dan Smith did the tile work around the wood-fired oven and it now serves as the centerpiece of the restaurant.
This is a big, beautiful space with a long bar running the left length of the restaurant and a variety of table and booth configurations for any type of party. “We wanted to be able to seat Italian family style,” says Rob Conroy, the restaurant’s owner. There aren’t many places in town that can accommodate up to 24 or more at one table and Mezzaluna prides itself on handling large groups.
While known for their pizza, two friends and I went in search of Italian comfort food and were happy to find a menu that provided just that. Head Chef Rich Irish’s vision for Mezzaluna was to build several venues into one. “I want people to walk in and be able to get a range of casual to fine dining choices.” General Manager Rob Moore adds, “People know they can come for lunch and get value and speed of service.” At night, families and couples can come in for a more relaxed evening.
The wine list was easy to navigate, with many labels that were recognizable and a few surprises. I like to see wines that I know and enjoy. Ironically, that knowledge usually inspires me to try something different since I have gotten a “feel” for the type of wines they offer. “We wanted people to see comfortable names and also some that will entice them to branch out and try something new,” says Moore. If wine’s not your thing, there are fifty beers on tap, most of which are American micro-brewed, and a full bar.
We started with an organic Cuma Torrontes, which is a dry white that offers a nice balance of fruit and acidity. It paired just beautifully with our appetizer of calamari frito with a spicy tomato chili marinara. The peppery, tender fried rings were an ample starter for three as we studied the entrée menu.
Veal Saltimbocca, with prosciutto and sage came with pasta marinara, and was a tasty take on the classic. Another friend ordered her favorite, wood oven-roasted chicken with mushroom bread pudding in porcini red wine reduction. This is comfort food at its best, with savory bread pudding and tender, flavorful chicken. I chose one of the new specialty steaks that Mezzaluna is offering, a rib eye with anchovy caper sauce. The steak was nicely done and came with a simply prepared angel hair pasta bathed in garlic. Complementing all of this was another Cuma wine, this time the Malbec, which all of us gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.
All of the entrees come with a choice of Caesar or house salad, or soup of the day. Both the Caesar and the Mezzaluna Salad (dressed with balsamic vinaigrette) were delicious and nice size starters. Chef Irish learned this cuisine in Berea, Ohio, where the restaurant he worked at was filled with Italian women. “The craft is what’s lacking in so many restaurants. We don’t take shortcuts here…we make everything in house, from the veal stock to my espagnole sauce.”
Other entrée choices were enticing as well. Says Chef Irish, “Our pizza is the number one choice, but after that, I’d say the Chicken Parmesan and Battered Sole are our most popular items.” For summer, the new menu will retain many of its favorites, but will focus on some lighter entrees and salads, along with a few new pizza toppings.
Several times a month, Mezzaluna clears the decks for dancing, bringing in a variety of live bands on the weekends. Additionally, the outdoor seating is a fun way to watch the world go by on a beautiful summer evening. We enjoyed our “starry night” at Mezzaluna from start to finish.