A mezzaluna is a half-moon shaped knife. It’s also a half-moon pasta shell. In Italian, it’s just “half-moon.”
So it only seemed right to try the mezzaluna di zucca at Chef Soerke Peters’ newest restaurant, Mezzaluna Pasteria and Mozzarella Bar. With three decades of experience cooking Italian food in Manhattan and L.A., Peters was up for the task of bringing Pacific Grove something that he not only enjoys himself, but excels at.
“I don’t get tired of pasta,” he says. “I can eat it every day.”
The namesake dish didn’t disappoint. Decisively al dente half-moons somehow delivered a melt-in-your-mouth sensation as they soaked in a sage sauce. Parmesan added a kick of saltiness, but the mild butternut squash filling smoothed it out. With nutmeg and cinnamon, this one could warm the rainiest night.
Agnolotti di capra maintained the same al dente firmness as the mezzaluna, though the braised goat stuffed inside was tender as could be. The goat also could have passed for beef, with not even a hint of gaminess, but rather a savory heft like a slow braised Sunday roast.
The menu boasts all kinds of appetizing pastas (and all housemade), including white wine braised rabbit with spinach and cauliflower, Dungeness crab ravioli with meyer lemon and asparagus, and carbonara with house-cured pancetta and duck egg yolk. Yet, Mezzaluna is about more than just pasta. It’s a mozzarella bar as well, and small plates are as carefully concocted as entrees. Each cheese is made in-house (it’s a theme), and complemented by interesting counterparts.
Salty baked beets and balsamic-macerated blackberries make lively complements to fiori di latte, a creamy cow’s milk mozzarella with a luxuriousness that appreciates the tart fruit and sweet veggies. Other “small” plates also stand out, like the lamb meatballs on a bed of cannellini beans. Super hearty, the dish still reserved a sense of delicacy with a light tomato sauce clearly made from perfectly ripe tomatoes.
It wasn’t even the star of the menu, but I’d go back for those meatballs any day. I’m also still fantasizing about Feeling Spritzy, a booze-free cocktail of Seedlip (a non-liquor cocktail mix) and ginger Baladin, an Italian soda which actually contains no ginger but heaps of bitter orange. At first sip it was almost too bitter, but it grew on me so fast to the point that I now can’t stop thinking about it.
And for more tastes that are hard to put down, you can’t go wrong with gelato, which Mezzaluna makes from scratch. Not to mention the affogato, featuring vanilla gelato topped with indulgent whipped cream. A sprinkling of crushed Amaretto cookie brings crunch, and ending it all is a tiny pitcher of espresso to pour on top.
With help from Chef de Cuisine Miguel Hernandez, Peters will soon roll out pick-up options, including gelato and raw pasta with sauces to go. Mezzaluna is also in the process of becoming P.G.’s first green-certified restaurant. Bravo!
MEZZALUNA PASTERIA AND MOZZARELLA BAR 1188 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove. 11:30am-3pm, 5-9pm (open until 10pm Thu-Sat; closed Tuesdays). 372-5325, mezzalunapasteria.com