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For sit down and eat in pizza, this is the best in town.
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Luigis band box
Recognize "Montoni's" band box?
For years, the Greater Akron pizza battle has raged between Luigi's, which I consider to be the best “sit-down” pizza in town, and Gionino's, which I am convinced is the best carryout and delivery pie available. Both win numerous “best in town” awards, with Luigi's taking the prize in our 2010 Akron Life & Leisure “Best Of The City” edition last month. Gionino's finished second, and because I consider them to be really be in different categories, it's pretty much a draw in my mind. I'll get around to the carryouts sometime later this year, so I'll focus on Luigi's today.
Located at 105 North Main, Luigi's has been at this “short North Main” location for over 60 years. This is that little section of Main Street, located across from the Northside Lofts, that is not connected to the rest of the street. While that makes it a little harder to get to, the advantage is that there is a lot of free public parking available, and this is a restaurant that is not only always full, but one where there is almost always a long line of people waiting for a table. It's a cash only, no credit cards, place; however, the menu is so affordable and the food is so good that carrying a couple $20s for a family of four is not an inconvenience.
The ambiance is pure family-owned traditional Italian. The tabletops are red, the menus are checked, the walls are fresco paintings, and the wood is dark. I guess you could think “Godfather” or “Sopranos” Italian if you've got to rely on stereotypes to get the picture. But they take the tradition very seriously, even the “gangster” model, as you'll see if you visit their web site. Personally, I am more attracted to the various toys and antique novelties on the walls and above all the doors. Over the main entrance, there is an old miniature bandbox. If you read the Crankshaft or Funky Winkerbean comic strips, you may already know that “Montoni's Pizza” in those is modeled to some extent on Luigi's, including this bandbox over the front door.
People come here for the home-style pasta dishes or the pizza. They also feature huge Italian style salads and anti-pastas. This pizza is actually somewhere between New York and Chicago style, in that it is flat pan with a high rising crust. The pies puff up high and hold a generous amount of topping, no matter how you customize them. The sauce is sharply tomatoey, perhaps not as sweet as some others, and clearly has a more of a garlic note. I prefer mine with at least a couple of meat toppings to balance out the sauce.
The one minor down note is that the service tends to be a little rushed because it takes awhile to bake a good pizza and there is, as I said, a long line out the door. It's not quite the “eat and get out” of an Army mess hall, but if you order a multi-course meal, the tend to toss all the dishes on your table at once, and they don't exactly encourage you to linger over coffee.
If you want a smile and more information, I encourage you to click on the following link and visit the web site. But stick around through the introduction...it's entertaining!