A Lovely With a Broken Nose….
August 20, 2010
Fourth St., along with Central, is one of Albuquerque’s treasures — historic streets that cry out for restaurant crawling. Our Friday night crawl last week brought us to Luigi’s Ristorante & Pizzeria, a place that we had driven by and ignored for years. Big mistake. Luigi’s turned out to be an exciting discovery. Luigi’s has been on 4th for 14 years, and has a sizable and loyal following of regulars. Add us in.
There is a seafood buffet on Fridays. Though popular amongst regulars, the buffet failed to attract us (seafood suffers on buffets, and should be prepared fresh). The fresh-looking salad bar did win us over, so we ordered from the menu–with salad bar extra for a small fee. Crisp fixings as well as a fine house dressing.
Jane tried Green Chile Chicken Lasagna, a delightful dish that puts a gentle New Mexico spin on traditional Italian fare. Served piping hot in its own casserole dish, the white lasagna boasted big chunks of savory breast meat, complemented by a flavorful chile-béchamel sauce. The chile was sightly above medium piquancy. She planned on taking leftovers home, but we couldn’t stop eating it — gone. That was delicious.
I asked for something off-menu — Rigatoni Carbonara, one of my barometer dishes. The kitchen made the Rigatoni fresh for me, cooked it perfectly al dente, and smothered it in a rich, creamy, and complex white sauce. Service was on-the-spot. Our server, Mario, was delightful and helpful, and he sat and chatted with us for some time. Mario apologized for substituting bacon that evening for the usual pancetta in the carbonara, but no matter — it was every bit as good as the same dish made specially for me at Paisano’s and at Joe’s Pasta House, pretty fine company. Can’t believe I ate the whole thing. Perhaps we’ll be more disciplined on our next visit and will save room for desserts.
The rooms are not elegant. In fact, we were happy to vote for Luigi’s as a candidate for a free restaurant makeover, as prompted by a card on our table. Elegance, however, is not what we look for on our crawls; good food well prepared at reasonable prices is. As we were leaving the place, its tawdry appearance gave pause to a couple who were just entering and stopped Jane to inquire how our meals had been. “Wonderful,” she said, urging them to head inside and indulge in some great Italian food. In essence, Luigi’s calls to mind Nelson Algren’s line about our much-loved former hometown of Chicago: “Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.” We have been searching for this real kind of place ever since we came to New Mexico. We finally found it.
Luigi’s now has joined the gluten-free rage. GF pastas and pizzas are now available.
We have put Luigi’s on our rotation.
Luigi’s Ristorante & Pizzeria