Mangia bene: Italian eatery serves timeless classics and contemporary favorites
Posted: September 16, 2012 at 6 a.m.
From the time Juan Barcenas began cooking as a Hollywood teenager, he has been passionate about making everything possible from scratch lasagna noodles, pasta sauces, salad dressings, pizza crust and bread.
For seven years beginning in 1996, Barcenas made a name for himself in Northwest Arkansas as lead chef at Bordinos in Fayetteville. In 2008, he realized his lifelong dream by opening his popular Mezza Luna restaurant.
The sophistication of the dishes and their presentation contrasts with the atmosphere at Mezza Luna. The decor is minimal, and the air is more neighborhood cafe than elite fine dining.
If you are looking at the walls, you are missing the point, Barcenas said. I'm building up from the bottom, step by step. We even started without tablecloths.
Gourmet pizzas and calzones are cooked in a stone oven and offered both at lunch and dinner. With more than 20 available toppings, guests can order a specialty pizza or design their own in sizes of 10-28 inches.
Antipasti offerings include blue crab and baby artichoke dip, crab cakes and stuffed portabello. Insalate varieties include Caesar, spinach and caprese, while popular soup choices are Ciopinno or roasted corn chicken chowder.
Lunchtime sandwiches include chicken cordon bleu with gorgonzola cheese; meatballs smothered with zesty marinara and mozzarella; Cuban pork tenderloin with whole grain mustard; and turkey with shiitakes, artichokes, grape tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan. ,All sandwiches are served with a choice of French fries or a salad. Pasta items include fresh bread and a side salad.
Gluten-free items also are offered, including pasta, lasagna and others.
Vegetarian offerings include angel-hair pasta with fresh roma tomatoes, basil, garlic and extra virgin olive oil; three-mushroom risotto with white truffle oil and a mascarpone cheese sauce; and penne with a spicy marinara, fresh basil and parmesan cheese.
Traditional Italian dishes include Siciliana pasta with Italian sausage, spinach, roma tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil and crushed red pepper in a light white-wine cream sauce; spaghetti Bolognese; and spaghetti with house-made meatballs, marinara and melted mozzarella.
Secondi items include chicken, steak, salmon, pork, rabbit, duck and lamb. The 14-ounce New York strip and ribeye steaks both are priced under $20 and are served with roasted-garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. There is also pork scallopini, lamb ossobuco and chicken picatta, and food affeciandos will appreciate the marinated and roasted leg of rabbit served with mascarpone risotto and a roasted red pear argue.
Barcenas fell in love early on with the true foundation of Italian food simple, comforting dishes prepared passionately using the freshest of ingredients. That mentality translates from the kitchen to the table, which has helped Barcenas and his staff create a loyal following.
We take care of the customer from the moment they come in until they leave, Barcenas said. It is not just about the food it is the way we do things.
Located at 1021 S. Razorback Road in Fayetteville, Mezza Luna offers a relaxed, casual atmosphere that is family friendly. The kids menu offers grilled cheese, chicken tenders, spaghetti or cheese pizza, all for $3 or less. All menu items are offered as take-out, and customized catering services are available.
1021 S. Razorback Road, Fayetteville
Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon-Fri, Dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m. daily. Imported true Italian ingredients. Authentic Milan-style recipes. A true Italian dining experience. Executive Chef Juan Barcenas does it again! One Block North of Baum Stadium.