Italian-food traditions radiate from Luna Capresse in North Miami

Luna Capresse photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.
Luna Capresse photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.

There’s no view of the blue grotto, but Luna Capresse offers Italian food cooked by a chef from Capri, where the sight of the moon over the Faraglioni rocks inspired the name of the year-old restaurant in North Miami. 

The lime-green walls are decorated with art made from recycled wood, cardboard and metal, and, at night, images of Capri are projected on a screen on the back wall. There’s plenty to eat here: antipasto, homemade pastas, sandwiches, salads and a selection of vegetarian dishes called veggie amore, including a bun-less quinoa “burger” (an order includes two patties with salad).

Owner Fernando Argiro is Argentine-Italian (both grandparents came from Italy) and was in the restaurant business in Buenos Aires, helping build restaurants and get them up and running. His wife, Elana Sweet, is American. She grew up in Buenos Aires as her parents opened a kind of Montessori school there to encourage freethinking children. Her grandfather, Laszlo Biro, came from Budapest to Argentina to start a pen company after inventing the ballpoint pen in 1931 based on the fast-drying ink of newspaper presses. 

The couple moved to Miami 12 years ago to raise their three daughters and ran an empanada company that they sold to buy the restaurant. They hired Massimiliano Francucci, a native of Capri, as the chef.

The lunch menu has sandwiches like the Italian with mozzarella, sundried tomatoes and pesto; grilled vegetables; and skirt steak. 

There’s also lasagna of the day; spinach and ricotta ravioli; pappardelle in cream sauce with parmesan; sautéed veggies with brown rice; spinach quiche with potato salad; and oven-roasted chicken. 

The signature Caprese salad brings thick slabs of housemade mozzarella with tomatoes and basil drizzled in balsamic vinegar. 

For dinner, start with beef carpaccio with shaved parmesan and a balsamic glaze on a bed of arugula, or antipasto de terra with prosciutto, ham, salami, mozzarella, olives and pickles. 

Then move on to mushroom and sausage risotto; baked swordfish with lemon; rice with shrimp; ricotta ravioli in butter and sage sauce with marjoram; or fettuccine with ricotta and sundried tomatoes. 

Finish with a strawberry cream tart or dulce de leche mousse.

Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.