Ask For Luigi
By YP Contributor

Come one, come all

Guests of Ask For Luigi may be surprised to learn the bustling Italian eatery does not take reservations. Situated on a quiet Railtown corner, the quaint restaurant known for producing delicious handmade pasta, among other things, seats customers as they arrive — and that’s that.

“We could be booked for months in advance, with no room on the waitlist, but that’s not for us,” says general manager Matthew Morgenstern. Instead, those eager for a table must arrive promptly at 5:30 pm. “Or else they wait at home, or have a drink nearby, and we send a text when it’s ready,” says Matthew, alluding to the cherished tradition of a mother calling her children for dinner.

When combined with family-style dishes and an eclectic interior – which includes just 32 seats at near-touching tables, and hanging jungle-like plants – such an unfussy dining experience may transport diners to the intimate kitchen of a loved one, or friend-of-a-friend. “We want our customers to feel as if they’ve wandered the streets of Italy and into someone’s home. As in, ‘go there, and ask for Luigi’,” says Matthew.

We want our customers to feel as if they’ve wandered the streets of Italy and into someone’s home. As in, ‘go there, and ask for Luigi’ - Matthew Morgenstern, general manager

Bring Your Appetite

A champion of unapologetically carb-rich (and delicious) dishes, head chef and co-owner JC Poirier takes inspiration from all parts of Italy. Dinner is meant for sharing, and includes traditional antipasti such as crispy bucantini and baccala fritters, and handmade pastas, of course, many with intriguing accompaniments (read: braised octopus and stewed tripe). For dessert with a savoury twist, the olive oil cake is a must-have, as is the chocolate budino.

Served from Tuesday to Friday, an equally robust lunch menu offers mix-and-match antipasti, which, when followed by a cappuccino, make for an ideal light meal. For those in search of more filling fare, pastas range from simple saffron penne to fresh gnocchi with squash and whipped ricotta.

“For all our dishes, we aim to reintroduce classic flavours, done to perfection,” says Matthew. The kitchen sources most meat from local producers, as well as other ingredients, when in season — including those in the Aperitivo Spritz cocktail, an original recipe and favourite among visitors and regulars alike.

Ask For Luigi offers a variety of Italian-inspired dishes including antipasti
Specializing in pasta, Ask For Luigi offers a variety of Italian-inspired dishes including antipasti. Photo credit: Christopher Flett

Everyone Loves Pasta

A community hub even on weekends, Ask For Luigi’s celebrated brunch attracts lineups most Saturdays and Sundays. “We offer one of the most unique brunches in the city,” says Matthew, alluding to such delectable and rare items as boiled Campari grapefruit and an “Italian benny” with mortadella, taleggio, and soft-boiled eggs.

But no matter what day of the week, Matthew says he’s fortunate to greet guests from all walks of life at Ask For Luigi – from creative workers from nearby Gastown, to young families, to grandmothers out for an afternoon stroll. And he attributes the restaurant's diverse demographic not only to crowd-pleasing dishes and relaxed, yet attentive servers, but also to the neighbourhood itself.

“It’s a really fun spot, where everyone’s welcome,” he says, suggesting that, just like the warm, inviting pasta, Ask For Luigi “is not for one group of people — it’s for everyone.”

Ask For Luigi’s interior is at once unfussy and cozy
Ask For Luigi’s interior is at once unfussy and cozy. Photo credit: Christopher Flett
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