Bella Luna brings Italy to the Lower Keys - A couple of people posing for the camera - Larry Ciaffone

Bella Luna Owners Annie Cerbone, Larry Ciaffone and Sara and Brian Jaskiewicz two days after the grand opening of the ristorante.

New ristorante passes muster

They make the homemade mozzarella every morning. There is nothing prepackaged at Bella Luna Ristorante, the newest restaurant to open on Cudjoe Key. “The lasagna is even made to order,” said co-owner Annie Cerbone. Several locals dining two days after the grand opening said they have been waiting for the opening for months and said they couldn’t wait to return again.

The restaurant is co-owned by a culinary foursome who have spent their lives in the restaurant industry. After attending culinary school, head chef Brian Jaskiewicz and Larry Ciaffone were roommates 15 years ago while working at Waldorf Boca Raton Resort and Club before moving to the Keys in 2011 to work at a local restaurant together. Larry’s background is in bar management, while Annie has been in the food and beverage business since childhood — helping her brother at the 42-year-old family-owned restaurant in Boca Raton. Sara, Brian’s wife, has floor experience that is “second to none.”

“We always wanted to open a restaurant together,” said Cerbone. “We know the restaurant business inside and out.”

The culinary team fell upon the place, they said of the remodeled property which sat vacant for the past 10 years. “We always knew we wanted to do something small and something Italian,” said Cerbone.

It was a team effort putting together the menu. They spent many-a-night experimenting at the Cerbone/Ciaffone house (the two couples live on the same block) — testing out affordable wines and imagining up the décor. For the past six months, the four have been taste testing the Napoleon and Tuscan-style menu items.

“Before we moved to Key West, my kitchen was all Italian — the heavy burgundies and hominess filled my walls,” said Cerbone. “And, then we moved down here and the décor changed to beachy;  I’m just glad I kept all these things in storage.”

The rustic venue is inviting for date nights and family functions.  The owners said they have begun the permitting process to add outside dining in the near future. They also offer daily specials from different Italian regions and have gluten-free pasta available. Don’t forget to save room for the homemade desserts and fresh coffees.

Bella Luna Ristorante is located at MM 21 on Cudjoe Key, just off Overseas Highway on State Road 4A.

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