Posted On: 03/01/2009
When someone mentions Bar Italia, the first thing that comes to mind is the smartly clad power lunchers gawking at each other on the luxe patio whenever I jog past on my way to Forest Park. But as night falls, the fashionable eatery opens the doors to a side room that plays host to a sleek, upscale lounge for late nighters.
Originally an exclusive private-party space, Luna Lounge debuted back in 2001 to accommodate the mass of thirsty Central West Enders and Bar Italia enthusiasts who just weren’t ready to call it a night. Accordingly, management dressed up the space and opened it up as a 1 a.m. bar Thursdays through Saturdays. Response has been exceptional – particularly on Thursday evenings, when the lounge plays host to its International Night, which, for a mere $5 cover, delivers throngs of attractive patrons moving to salsa and other worldly beats reverberating through the high-end sound system.
Tucked away from Bar Italia’s saloon by a velvet curtain, Luna is a slightly imposing little space. The sleek wooden bar, finely polished wood floor and tight row of black metal barstools project an unmistakably chic European style; dim light fixtures gently illuminate the blue-gray color scheme and music videos are projected onto an oversized screen. Upscale and impeccably clean, Luna is the type of place where even smokers are wary of stray cigarette ashes messing with the natural order of things.
Word to the wise: Luna is not a happy-hour,let’s-stop-in-for-a-quick-one-before-we-go-out type of place. This is a destination lounge that doesn’t open until 9 and won’t get crowded before 11. When it does fill up, Luna becomes a smart hot spot brimming with serious eye candy. Packs of well-dressed girls hover around the high tops enjoying their own bottle service, then jet back and forth between conversations at the bar with equally well-dressed gents. Everyone’s either flirting, downing shots or plugging away on their cell phones. Age range varies: It’s your typical post-college singles scene, with a few boomers and after-dinner drinkers thrown in for good measure.
The booze factor at Luna is pretty straightforward. There’s a nice selection of import bottles from a slick cooler beneath the bar. It’s an Italian joint, so if you do drink beer it’s best to opt for a Peroni. (If you’ve never tried one, it’s time you did.) The wine selection, carried over from the restaurant, is decent. But the real treat from behind the bar is the cocktails that are randomly on special – Mojitos especially. The bar is well-stocked all around – there are a few great high-end spirits – with a special emphasis on vodka-based cocktails and a widening selection of cognacs for the sipping crowd. Service can be, and was, a pain on busy nights. Stake a claim on a barstool and prepare to defend against those flirtatious girls and their weaselly law-student boyfriends.
Luna is still a popular private-party space with multiple bookings throughout the year; unless you’re prepared to crash someone else’s event, it would be a good idea to call ahead and check for availability.
Though not necessarily my scene, Luna has an undeniable charm. With a hip and utterly cosmopolitan presence, this drinkery is well-situated in an ever-evolving neighborhood like the West End.
STL After Dark
Check it: International Night every Thursday.
Hipster or Hoosier: Upwardly mobile club types, singles on the prowl, after-dinner crowd, serious Mojito enthusiasts.
Suds or 'Tinis: Sophisticated specialty drinks, choice vodka cocktails.
Where: Luna Lounge (adjacent to Bar Italia), 9 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis, 314.361.7010
When: Thu. to Sat. – 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. (when not engaged for a private function)
Want to comment on this article? Login or sign up on Sauce.