We all remember our first kiss and our first pizza. One may have even been decidedly more noteworthy than the other. 🙂
Pizza entered my life in the 50s at a small storefront cafe on 19th Street, NW, in Washington, near Dupont Circle. A place called Famous Luigi’s was opened in 1943, by Luigi Calvi, an Italian immigrant from Genoa. Luigi is thought to be the first restaurateur to bring pizza to the Nation’s Capital. The small cafe was lighted only by candles atop wine bottles, that sat on each of the red and white cloth-covered tables. In the far corner was a wall covered with dozens of colorful neckties. If Luigi was especially fond of a customer, he showed his regard by cutting off their tie and mounting it on the wall. (The cost of your meal was covered in the exchange.)
Love at First Bite
After that first pizza, I remember telling my mother, that I’d eaten the most heavenly tomato-cheese pie and asking if she could make one. She tried, of course, but I kid you not, I have never found a pizza to compare with Luigi’s. Years later, I returned with my children, telling them it would be their Best Pizza Ever. They smirked at my claim, that is, until they, too, became hooked on Luigi’s.
A 70 Year Run
When Luigi died in the early 60s, relatives came from Italy to take over the business. They lived “above the store,” until they turned the space into an upstairs dining area. The neighborhood survived the riots of the 1960s, and eventually became expensive commercial property.
In 2013, I read that Luigi’s was closing permanently, hanging up the ol’ pizza peels for the last time. I grieved the passing of Luigi’s like I would an old friend. But I took some consolation in learning that a niece of the second owner (the Bruzzo family) opened a place in Alexandria called Osteria Marzano. I’ve not eaten there yet, but it’s on my list.
What Was So Special About Luigi’s?
I’m thinking it must’ve been the balance of sauce to cheese to toppings. It was the perfect pie! Or, at least, in my memory.
As I thought of the many pizzas I’ve shared with friends and relatives, I pulled out some pizza photos from my file. (PIzza is often more photogenic than people. It loves showing off all its gooey goodness.)
Perhaps the photos will get you to thinking about local pizzas. Yes, there’s some mighty fine pies to be had right here in St. Louis and I’m a long way from having tried most of them. But I would love to hear what your favorites are and where to find them.