Monday, August 15, 2011

Best 'O Veg - Part 1 - Italian

This blog, like many of the restaurants in this here US of A, tends to be more meat centric. What many of my readers may not know about me is that I am pro vegetarian and was a card carrying member for 3 full years. No red meat, white meat, or fish. I had to give up that lofty pursuit when my cravings got worse and worse. I was getting proper nutrition, so skeptics; keep your snarky comments to yourself.
Suffice it to say, in 3 years you learn a lot about restaurants and where to find the best veg food around. I will share this vital knowledge with you now grasshopper. Periodically I will throw out these Best ‘O Veg reviews. It will showcase a paticular cuisine/establishment.  Today I will post a review for Famous Luigi’s in DC, once on my vegetarian restaurant review website. Enjoy…

Famous Luigi’s
1132 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-7574

I am of the belief that on one’s 1st visit to Famous Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, in NW DC, the pizza should be their starting point. I have had the privilege of eating their food on 3 occasions. This DC locale has been at the same building for almost 70 years. In that time they have most definitely mastered their trade.

My introduction to their groundbreaking pizza ruined me for pizza from any other food establishment. I had ordered a pizza with mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and extra cheese. Upon my 1st bite of this masterpiece, I believe my eyes rolled back into my head.

I have always been of the school of thought that pizza was one of those foods that was good, but not worthy of culinary worship as fine cuisine. Luigi’s has single-handedly torn down my misconceived opinion in one meal.

I eat pizza from the usual places, but this pizza was beyond anything I had ever experienced. The cheese was heavy, but not overwhelming, the toppings were fresh and not overcooked, the tomato sauce was flavored beautifully and not too heavy, but the crowning point of this meal was the crust.

Normally I leave the crust. Most crust lacks flavor and texture, and does not impress me. There can be no doubt that this crust is made by scratch, and from true Svengalis of this profession. I can honestly say I have never tasted crust this good before (could you tell?). It was soft and hearty at the same time, but my favorite aspect was the lovely yeast flavor, it is what really makes this crust unique.

I have also tasted the appetizers, Melanzane fritte (fried eggplant) and the Mozzarella fritte (homemade mozzarella; breaded & fried). Both are EXCELLENT and completely homemade. The eggplant breading did lack seasoning, but all it really needed was a little salt and it was still amazing. The texture was perfect.

On my most recent visit, I finally tried their pasta (made in-house). I tasted their Fetuccine alla Luigi (homemade pasta sautéed with cream sauce & parmigiano). This is essentially their version of Fettuccini Alfredo. I also tried their Gnocchi alla bava - potato dumplings in three cheeses. I can tell you, without hesitation, that I have never tasted better.

What people do not realize, is that fresh homemade food, like pasta, looks very different than what most people are familiar with. This kind of food lacks the pre-fab/out of the jar appearance of most chain restaurants (ie: Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill). The pasta has a more yellow color, and for the 1st time I was eating pasta at an Italian restaurant that was cooked to perfection – Al dente. At every single eatery I have been too, the pasta is always overcooked to some extent.

The sauce was a simple creation and elegant in its simplicity. It was like you could name each ingredient in it by tasting it. There is no mass-produced, from the grocery store, generic mush from Luigi’s.

My opinion is, visit this place as soon as you can, you will not regret it.


Since writing this entry I have also had the privilage of trying the angel hair arrabiatta. Technically not on the menu, it is a must order. I have never eaten angel hair in a restaurant the was perfectly al dente. I could die happy now. The sauce bursting with flavor Italiano with a touch of zing. Eat eat eat!

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