Grazing: First Look: Lunacy Black Market

Paul Luna offers criminally low prices downtown

How long ago was it? Over 20 years, I think. Lulu, the city's Pre-eminent Foodie, invited me along to sample the food of a talented new chef she had discovered. The restaurant was Bice, a corporate-funded Italian spot in Midtown on Peachtree Street. The chef was Paul Luna, a native of the Dominican Republic.

I don't recollect the specific dishes we sampled that day, but I do remember being impressed by the eccentric play of ingredients, their clear flavors and a rather romantic, sensual quality to their presentation. The pasta was cooked truly al dente – too much so for some, and just right for others. That debate raged when Luna opened his own restaurant, Luna Si, on Peachtree in south Buckhead.

And that same debate came to define everything about Luna. His quirky personality and cooking were too much for some and entertaining to others – a typical response to provocative, talented people. He went on to open a series of still flourishing tapas venues – Eclipse di Luna, for example – and ultimately left the city, returning just recently. Does that sound like anyone else you know? Indeed, for a period, Luna operated a restaurant in the same space that Richard Blais later offered the city its first and most extreme tastes of molecular gastronomy. But Blais sports a fauxhawk. Luna has a pony tail. Blais is a TV star. Luna says he doesn't own a TV.

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(Photo by James Camp)