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“Authentic Italian Sans the Pretention” 4 of 5 stars
Review of La Mezzaluna Cafe

La Mezzaluna Cafe
90 Somerset Blvd., Charles Town, WV
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Ranked #5 of 50 Restaurants in Charles Town
Cuisines: Italian
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Restaurant details
Good for: Families with children
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner, Reservations
Description: Phone: 304-728-0700
Charles Town, West Virginia
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
3 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“Authentic Italian Sans the Pretention”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 27, 2014

La Mezzaluna Café in Charles Town doesn’t look like much from the outside. The exterior entrance is just one more storefront in a row of similar entrances located in an aging strip mall. The sign declares simply "Café" and leaves it at that. Once inside, the prospects are more encouraging. This isn’t a fancy restaurant, but it is not without charm. There is a large scenic Italianesque mural along one wall. Tables and booths maximize the space available without undue crowding. This is an oilcloth versus tablecloth kind of place. Nonetheless, bottles of Italian wine, assorted vessels containing dry pasta, and small decorative items with a Mediterranean theme are tucked here and there to contribute to a modest sense of mood.

The décor aside, the real draw for La Mezzaluna has always been the food. Certainly the menu is unexpected. This is Charles Town, West (by gawd) Virginia—a small town with no dsscernable Italian heritage. A first-timer might well walk in expecting to find spaghetti, lasagna, and possibly veal parmigiana—and you will find these at La Mezz. But you will also find such specialties as gnocchi Bolognese, fresh tuna grigliata, agnolotti casalinga, and mellanzane alla parmiagiana. All are made to order and are preceded by warm garlic knots and large bowls of salad full of fresh ingredients. The selection of entrees offers something for about everyone—some made with Italian sausage, fish or seafood and others that will satisfy most vegetarian tastes.

La Mezz always has a special, which is usually an Italian seafood dish. My favorites are those featuring a white fish and/or scallops with pasta and a white wine sauce. Dishes with variations of these ingredients are offered frequently but are not on the menu—so I look eagerly at the special board when we enter. Failing to find a special that tempts me, my favorite offering from the menu is spinach ravioli made with a white cream sauce. Himself likes the agnolotti casalinga, a halfmoon-shaped pasta rich in black pepper, stuffed with porcini mushrooms, and smothered in a Bolognese sauce. He also likes delizie de mare, which is chock full of scrimp, mussels, clams, and calamari—all smothered in marinara.

Aside from the entrees, appetizers and desserts are offered, though we rarely partake of either. Both sections of the menu feature Italian staples, including antepasto freddo and panzanella for the appetizers or tiramisu and cannoli for dessert. In our opinion, if La Mezz has a weakness, it’s with the desserts. I love tiramisu and have tried it here on a few occasions. It is almost always a tad frozen in the center and lacks the fine taste of an in-house-made dish. I figure it to be a store-bought offeringbut have never asked . All things considered, we’re happier ending our meal with the restaurant’s excellent fresh-brewed coffee, which is always strong and flavorful. There is also a children’s menu and a small but reasonably priced wine list.

We eat here five or six times a year (most recently in March)—often enough to be recognized but not often enough to be regulars. Our meals are without fail appetizing and well presented. Service is friendly and well paced. La Mezz does not take reservations, so expect a wait period (particularly on weekends) before being seated. We have waited up to an hour-and-a-half on a Friday night. Frequent patrons know and understand the drill and are willing to wait anyway—no doubt a resounding testimony to the quality of food. Weeknights are better, when wait times are generally nonexistent.

Prices are entirely reasonable for the quality. On a more or less typical visit, we each indulge in one of our proven favorites, then we share a bottle of wine and polish off our meal with coffee. The tab comes to about $65, wine and tip included—with variations depending on whether we order from the higher end of either the menu or the wine list. We highly recommend this restaurant. We even recommend its somewhat proletarian atmosphere. To our way of thinking, we get the fancy food without the fancy prices.

© BawBaw, GoneOnTravel

  • Visited March 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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111 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
long island
Top Contributor
81 reviews 81 reviews
31 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 33 cities Reviews in 33 cities
40 helpful votes 40 helpful votes
“Fine Italian food”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 25, 2014

We ate here twice last weekend and were very happy in both cases. The quality and quantity were both very good. They do not take reservations, last Saturday we had to wait about ten minutes, but it was worth it. Parking is easy in a Food Lion strip mall.

  • Visited May 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
North Carolina
Senior Contributor
33 reviews 33 reviews
25 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
14 helpful votes 14 helpful votes
“Italian done right”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 25, 2014

This restaurant is a surprise in a small West Virginia town.

If you like Italian cuisine this is the place

  • Visited May 2014
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Elyria, Ohio
Top Contributor
109 reviews 109 reviews
60 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 34 cities Reviews in 34 cities
53 helpful votes 53 helpful votes
“Best Food For the Buck in Charles Town.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 24, 2014

We've been regulars at this hidden gem for a long time and they never disappoint.
This last visit, we went twice, once quite late and they stayed open to serve us and then again at an earlier hour.
Servings are good sized, you won't leave hungry and the food is well prepared. A large bowl of salad and oh, so yummy garlic knots come with the meal. We weren't big fans of the plain jane spaghetti with rather ordinary tomato sauce that was served as a side with many dishes, but the mains themselves were excellent. Also excellent was the nicely crisp but not oily fried calamari.
Dependably good food and service at really good prices. Worth trying to find in the small shopping mall it's hidden in. Look for the words CAFE and look for this unobtrusive restaurant hidden nearby. You'll be happy you did.

  • Visited May 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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Port Jefferson, New York
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
13 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“My first one star review. ”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed May 13, 2014

I've been struggling with whether to even write a review of this restaurant, because my experience was so terrible that part of me has that "if you don't have anything nice to say..." guilt going on. But the people deserve to know! That's why we write these, right?

My companion and I were visiting the area and decided to try this place after reading decent reviews. If you read my other reviews you will note that I am generally kind with what I write, so I assure you that none of this is an exaggeration. I'm going to break this review into two categories to try and limit my ranting:

The food: we got the starter including eggplant rollatine, sun dried tomatoes/peppers/mushrooms, and mozzarella sticks. The eggplant was still ice cold in the middle. Seriously ice cold. Everything else on the plate was ok, but really it's hard to mess up vegetables and fried cheese. For our entrees we thought we would stick with something safe - my boyfriend got the chicken parm, and I got fettuccine Alfredo with chicken. Oh boy was it bad. I can only think that nobody who has eaten (and liked) their Alfredo has never actually had Alfredo sauce. My plate arrived and it was literally a pile of pasta with about 3 sticks of melted butter dumped over it. The sauce resembled nothing like any Alfredo I've ever seen or tasted - I really think it was just butter. Maybe their sauce separated before they poured it over my plate? I have no idea. The chicken was really bad too. It tasted like it had been frozen too long and thrown in the microwave - small white pieces of sadness. I will say that my boyfriends chicken parm was halfway decent, so if you have the misfortune of eating here you should probably just order that.

The service: Ok, here's where it gets reaaallly uncomfortable. In a normal situation, I would have politely discussed the issues with the food with my server, and maybe asked for something else or a discounted bill. Having worked in food service and retail myself, I really hate to be a complainer. I quickly gave up on the idea of a sympathetic waiter when I realized that we were being completely and utterly ignored by our waitress. She sat us in a corner, and after bringing us our food she NEVER. CAME. BACK. We literally sat there, myself with a completely untouched pasta dish, for over a half an hour in total trying to get our waitress' attention. Finally I was able to flag someone else down, who was very polite and wonderful and apologized for our wait, and said they would have our server come over with the check. I saw this person speak to our waitress, she looked at us, and proceeded to mill around the dining room absently wiping tables for at least another 10-15 minutes. Mind you we had not once even complained about the terrible food. I managed to flag down the friendly server again, who once again apologized and informed me that our waitress is actually the manager!?!? Lord have mercy. So finally she comes back over with the check, and proceeds to literally stand over my boyfriends shoulder watching him take out the money to pay her, and after an awkward moment of waiting for her to go away so we can discuss a tip, she got the hint and stepped away. We left a tip, not really because a tip was deserved, but rather because we didn't feel like waiting another 15 minutes for change.

Please, if you value a good meal and halfway decent service, avoid this place like the plague. It was honestly the WORST restaurant experience I have ever had in my life, and I wouldn't wish that on any other paying customer! Wish I could have tipped the poor server who actually tried to help us. That person deserves a raise, or maybe a better boss ;)

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