Nestled amongst River North's residential buildings, Bella Luna glows as a standout gem of neighborhood eating. The restaurant occupies a sunlit, corner storefront space full of old-world detail: Expect a dark green awning with curlicue edges, flower boxes and sidewalk tables in the summertime and a screen-door-enclosed kitchen that affords passersby a look at pasta-boiling cooks.
Inside, blackboards offer up handwritten specials, a sleek bar awaits winos and a neon crescent moon lights up the window. The menu offers the bread and butter (or in this case, spaghetti and meatball) basics of Italian food: appetizers like grilled calamari and mozzarella sticks and antipasto and chicken Caesar salads.
Entrees average $10 and feature the house specialty: eight-fingered cavatelli in vodka sauce. Other cheesy customer faves include the house-made ravioli and a roster of pizzas; the latter uses hand-rolled dough in a recipe that has remained a Bella Luna family secret for years. Get your pie "thin" or "pan" and try Luna-inspired flavors like the Deluxe, a combo of sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions and pepperoni. The service is rumored to be friendly, but if you prefer DIY-style dining, call the cafe for delivery.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg