1132 19th St. N.W.
What makes Famous Luigi’s famous? Well, fame is a funny thing. Celebrities like Jessica Simpson are only famous because they say so (and because they can create their own reality television shows), and when it comes down to it, Luigi’s is just “famous” because the owners say so.
When you first walk in, a stairwell greets you instead of a hostess. In fact, there is no hostess; the servers simply come up front when they happen to see someone waiting. Then they either seat the customers or yell at them for blocking the doorway. The wait staff is well practiced but still remains unpolished. The same goes for the decoration. You’ll find the usual red-and-white checkered tablecloths and random art on the walls, but instead of seeming bland, it is perfect with the candle light at each table.
For the brave, just go and sit yourself down, since that’s what the regulars do. You’ll pretty much have to, with all of the tables on top of one another. The downstairs has much more of a quiet ambience with a little more space, but upstairs is what real Italian dining is all about – no place to walk, mismatching tables and, boy, is it loud.
But Luigi’s cuisine is not quite the stuff the pasta mamas back in Italy are known for. Few dishes from the large menu shine. The rest are as lackluster as the filler songs on Jessica Simpson’s new album. But who cares about that; It’s the Top 40 TRL-equivalent food you want, and for that, you can start with the calamari. It’s nothing to write home about but is still satisfying and up to code. It also feeds two, if not three, so get ready to share, whether you like it or not.
For your main dish, the pizza is an unexpectedly good option. It’s thick and surprisingly not greasy. You can get it individually sized or for four, and you can choose from a huge list of toppings, including all the usuals and some more adventurous options like clams and smoked salmon. The pizza doesn’t come at a bad price, either; depending on how many people are partaking and how many toppings, the cost will be anywhere between $7.50 and $25, but 15 bucks for a pie is a safe bet.
What isn’t a safe bet is the pasta. Shocking, yes, but Luigi’s pasta simply lays limp on your plate. The pasta al pesto is no less than a travesty. My Midwestern mother could make it better, and she doesn’t have an Italian bone in her body. The pasta sticks together and is pretty heavy and the pesto sauce is anything but flavorful, but it does glow on your plate in a lovely bright green. Most of the other pasta, especially when it’s baked, comes with a side of grease.
One non-greasy choice is the plain old spaghetti. The meatballs are small, however, so get a few if you want a meaty dinner. But who wants to pay the two dollars extra for each meatball? Save those dollars and get yourself a real pasta meal elsewhere.
Still, just like we all have watched “Newlyweds” (whether we will admit it or not), Luigi’s is worth a try. You can be loud with your friends. You don’t have to dress up. You may have a “chicken or tuna” moment during your meal, but if you stick with the basics, you’ll be buffalo wing-free. Many GW students have dined at least once at Luigi’s, even if only because the wait was too long when Caf? Asia was located next door. If you’re in a big group and you want a filling meal for $15, just walk in like you own the place and sit yourself down.