New Luna Bella can feed a family

Cuisine: Owners of a former pizza place in Hickory Ridge have renamed it and added various Italian dishes to the menu.

Restaurant profile

March 07, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is the theory of Celeste Gebler and Joe Iacia, owners of Luna Bella in Hickory Ridge Village Center.

Choosing the name was the most difficult aspect of running the restaurant, according to Gebler. "After several screaming matches, I told Joe that if this is the hardest thing we've ever done, we're home free," she said.

One of the names they considered was used by another Italian restaurant in Howard County, Mangia, knocking it out of contention. Also rejected was Ciao, which means both hello and good-bye in Italian. Finally, she said, they got out an Italian dictionary and came up with Luna Bella.

"We just wanted to agree on something," Gebler said, but she acknowledges that the name - which means "beautiful moon" - is fortuitous because it has helped guide the owners in changing the decor.

Formerly Ricciuti's Brick Oven Pizza, the restaurant will keep a variety of pizza, stromboli and calzone on the menu, but Gebler promises some additions.

"We've been running possible new menu items as specials since we bought the restaurant in late December," she said.

Look for new entrees such as pesto-stuffed eggplant, a vegetarian dish that features eggplant layered with pesto, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, rolled into a log and served on top of angel hair pasta or linguini; and pecan encrusted salmon with marinara sauce.

Italian standards such as chicken or veal parmigiana and chicken or veal marsala will also be added to the menu, Gebler said.

With an accommodating children's menu, Luna Bella is a place for the family, she said. "Children are very welcome. They can have one of the kid's meals, while their mom and dad can enjoy one of the grown-up meals. Or, they can all enjoy one of our many pizzas," she said.

Fifteen kinds of brick-oven pizza are offered in 10- or 12-inch sizes. Choices include Southwestern Veggie (guacamole, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, tomatoes, red onions and fresh cilantro); Pizza Sole (tomato sauce, mozzarella and fontina cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, grilled marinated chicken breast and pine nuts); Pizza Bianca (extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, and topped with mozzarella, fontina, Romano and ricotta cheeses), and Ciao Bella (tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon and mushrooms).

Stromboli and calzone are available, too. Choose from the original stromboli (capicola ham, provolone cheese, green peppers, onions and Italian spices); vegetable stromboli (zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, green peppers provolone and Italian spices); spinach calzone (stuffed with fresh spinach, red onions, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and Italian spices), and the pepperoni or sausage calzone (stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, Italian spices and pepperoni or sausage).

With a warm and inviting decor and the casual but sophisticated menu, Gebler believes she and Iacia have found a customer-pleasing formula for Luna Bella.

"We want to have a place where people can come in and have a great meal and forget their day," Gebler said. "And then leave full and happy."

Luna Bella

Where: 6420 Freetown Road, Hickory Ridge Village Center, Columbia; 410-531-0250.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: $5.95 to $11.70

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover

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