First Look at Luna Pizzeria

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If you drive past the Barnaby's Cafe on West Gray, you've probably noticed a sign telling you to eat at Luna Pizzeria on Kirby. After reading this sign practically every day, I have developed an undying craving for pizza. So, this past weekend I finally visited Luna, a new concept from the owners of Barnaby's.

Luna Pizzeria is tucked away in the corner of a shopping center on the corner of Kirby and Richmond. There isn't a giant sign guiding you to the restaurant, so it's kind of easy to miss.

Once you step out of your car to walk inside, you're instantly hit with the satisfying scent of pizzas cooking, and that smell intensifies as soon as you open the door. On a Sunday night, Luna is packed with families sitting at booths and friends sharing pizzas at the centrally-located high-top counter. Beautiful lights shaped like star bursts hang from the ceiling, creating a starry night atmosphere.

I wish I could have dined inside Luna, but due to time constraints, I was forced to order my food to-go; within 15 minutes, though, my order of two personal pizzas, a sandwich and a salad was complete. Take my advice and call ahead so you can pick it up as soon as you arrive. Everything will still be warm by the time you get home, unless you can't resist diving into your pizza while sitting at a red light.

At Luna Pizzeria, you can choose from six signature pies, or build your own. As I scanned the menu for what looked the best, I couldn't take my eye off of the Mushroom Signature Pizza featuring four types of mushrooms (baby portobello, shiitake, oyster and button) with spinach, rosemary and a dollop of whipped ricotta cheese on each slice. I prefer vegetarian pizzas, but my fiancé enjoys pies with meat toppings. He chose the classic Sausage Signature Pizza with crumbled sweet Italian sausage, sauteed red onions and red peppers.

A 9-inch personal pizza costs $7 and is perfect for one hungry eater or for two to share. Large pizzas cost $5 more.

The combination of soft button and baby portobello mushrooms with crispy, almost dried, oyster and shiitake mushrooms balances nicely with the thin layer of red sauce and globs of creamy ricotta cheese. To the naked eye, the pizza dough appears puffy and soft, but with one bite your teeth crunch through the crust and discover that it is both crispy and thick -- the best of both worlds. Luna Pizzeria uses dough from Angela's Oven and when the pies bake, the dough softens on top and crisps on the bottom and edges.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the vegetarian variety, the sausage pizza stole the show. Sweet Italian sausage balances perfectly with the bitter, crispy red onions and spicy red peppers. Plus, the ratio of sauce and melted Mozzarella cheese to the crunchy crust is spot on. It's a classic combination that is perfectly executed.

Meatball subs are probably one of my favorite sandwiches; it's down-home comfort food. Three large meatballs are stuffed into a thick toasted hoagie bun then topped with melted Provolone, tomato sauce and a basil leaf. I'm not sure what kind of meat (or meats) that Luna uses to make the meatballs, but I can tell you that each one simply melts in your mouth; you just might need a fork and knife to tackle this behemoth.

The Luna Caesar salad is standard with crispy romaine lettuce leaves, toasted croutons generously coated in olive oil, salt and pepper, and thick shavings of grana padano, a semi-aged hard Italian cheese similar to Parmesan. But, once you toss everything with the garlic dressing, you're reminded that this is a Barnaby's Cafe concept where the salads have always been anything but typical.

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