I don’t remember the first time I had pizza. Being a child of the 70’s, I am sure it was probably a Chef Boyardee box mix. I also grew up with D’Antonio’s pizza in Lodi. Which if you ask me, is the best, but I can’t tell you when I had my first pizza from there. But my dad, Bud, can tell you the exact year and place where he had pizza for the very first time. It was at Luigi’s Pizza in Akron, Ohio in 1956. This year, for my husband Bobby’s birthday, he wanted to go to Luigi’s with my parents, so he could have his first Luigi pizza with my dad. What was supposed to occur on December 7, actually took place on December 10.
Luigi’s opens at 3 p.m. on Sundays, so we planned to get there when it opened. We actually got there 13 minutes before three so we ended up waiting in the car until the it was time. Where we were parked, we saw several cars pull in right around 3 p.m. In fact, many people had made it in the restaurant before we got to the door. Thankfully, we were still early enough that we didn’t have to wait to be seated. Which apparently is not common if you come much after, because a line started forming before 4 p.m.
On our drive to Lodi to pick up my parents, Bobby told me he was going to get a cheese pizza and maybe a meatball sub. That sounded like a lot of food to me, but then, I know Bobby loves both cheese pizza and meatballs, so who was I to deny him. Besides, we were going for his birthday, so I figured he deserved to splurge.
What actually occurred is that he ordered a meatball splash as an appetizer and shared it with the table. While we were waiting for it, the waitress brought out a basket of bread with butter. The bread was incredible. It had a crisp crust, just like you would get in an Italian bakery in Boston. We asked the waitress and she said they get the bread delivered every day by Ideal Bakery from Lakemore.
When the meatball splash came, we were impressed with the size of the meatballs. They are huge! The dish is served with two huge meatballs smothered in mozzarella cheese and homemade marinara sauce. (It is basically an open faced meatball sub.) It was just enough to whet our appetites. We really enjoyed the meatballs and were eager to taste the pizza.
We ordered a Number 1 — which is a pizza with tomato and cheese (that is tomato sauce). We also ordered a Number 9 — which is a pizza with tomato, cheese, mushroom, sausage and pepperoni. And we ordered a small pizza bianco which is a white pizza made with three cheeses, garlic, onions and “just the right balance of Italian Seasoning.” The cheese pizza was specifically for Bobby. The bianco pizza was for my mom. The mushroom, sausage and pepperoni was for me, since I enjoy a little substance on my pizza. My dad, well, he got some of them all.
When my dad first went to Luigi’s in 1956, he said he really liked the pizza. He recalled that when he was in Junior High, his seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Hammerschmidt, told the seventh graders that they wouldn’t like pizza. As a senior in high school, he realized that she had been wrong! When asked how it was all these years later, he said it was still good and it tasted like he remembered.
Bobby also agreed that the pizza was good. While it is not in the style that he loves — the New York style pizza — he said that the crust of the Luigi’s pizza was a little more airy than his favorite pizza’s from the east coast. But he liked it and especially enjoyed the crust on the edge that was crispy. (You can read every post we’ve written about pizza here, and you might enjoy reading about how we got caught up in the Grimaldi’s Pizza feud when we were in Brooklyn here.)
We had a chance to talk with Travis, one of the managers. He gave us a history of Luigi’s. It is a family business, owned now for three generations by the Ciriello Family. They have been in business since 1949. They have expanded their place two times. They have the main dining room (the one we were in), the old room and the new room. The “new” room was added 26 years ago. I guess new is a relative term! When Travis told us about the expansions, my dad said that he thought the additions were new. When he came in 1956, it was just the main room. He pointed to the front of the restaurant and said he and his friend had sat in one of those booths. From what he could tell and Travis confirmed the restaurant’s decor hadn’t changed much. Although, I’m sure they have done something to keep it from showing it’s age, as the restaurant was clean and seats were in good condition. Sometimes older restaurants can show their age in a negative way, but Luigi’s did not.
The quality of the food is evident. The sauce is homemade. The meatballs are homemade. The sausage is homemade. Even the cheese, though not homemade, is imported in blocks and then shredded on-site.
Before we left, I had try the Pav’s Creamery Candy Cane ice cream — even though I was pretty full. Anytime I can have something with mint, I’ll do it. Like all of Pav’s Creamery Ice Cream I’ve had, it is very smooth ice cream. The bits of candy canes made it perfect. This is my time of year — I think they call it minter!
I would caution you, that if you plan on going to Luigi’s — which I suggest you do — take cash. They do not take credit or debit cards. They have an ATM there, but since we had appropriate currency, I didn’t look at the machine or for it, so I can’t tell you what kind of service fees are associated with it. You definitely don’t want to go and then not be able to try their delicious food. So come prepared!