6 at 51st St.; E, V at Lexington Ave.-53rd St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
43rd St. to 63rd St., York Ave. to Fifth Ave.
Luna Piena thankfully lacks the rushed pace of so many restaurants, both downtown and in this East Fifties section of Manhattan. Paintings and wine bottles line the walls of the narrow space, and a large garden area in back combines with a strong wine list to beckon a youngish, after-work Midtown crowd. Appetizers and salads are market-fresh; a pile of baby spinach with strawberries, caramelized almond chunks, and sliced Pecorino cheese is inventive, too. The kitchen makes most of its own pasta, from pappardelle and cavatelli to gnocchi, fettuccine, and bucatini—all are light and airy. Alas, the preparations can be a letdown: Italian sausage and broccoli rabe served over bucatini is plain and uneventful; similarly, a duck breast with wild mushrooms in red wine sauce—although atop a mound of tender pappardelle—is strangely flavorless. Regulars opt for the menu’s standout: classic orata al sale, whole sea bream baked in salt and served filleted. The delicate, perfectly tender white meat is easily worth the price tag.Recommended Dishes
Calamari alla griglia, $13.50; spinaci e fragole, $10.95; orata al sale, $26.50