Luigi's Pizzeria aims at a broader audience than its predecessor, Flip Pizza. Gone is Flip's wood-burning oven and small artisanal pies. Now, pizza is made in a gas-fired oven and may be ordered by the slice. There's a full menu of pastas, salads and entrees, too. Order at the counter, and your food will be brought to your table.
You've probably tasted both the grandma and Neapolitan slices at countless other pizzerias. They're good. Respectable. And kind of boring. But an individual "pizzatini" turns out to be something more, its crust compellingly crisp and clean-tasting. The Margherita version, topped with marinara, fresh mozzarella and basil, is a bright one, the "classic white" pie, with seasoned ricotta, mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses, positively sumptuous.
Chef Charlie Keller is both well credentialed and well intentioned. He scores with both his chopped Greek and Luigi's salads, the latter topped with roasted red peppers, artichoke, tomato and fresh mozzarella. Instead of balsamic, ask for Keller's refreshing lemon vinaigrette.
Veal, pork and beef meatballs, dolloped with ricotta and basil, turn out lush and savory. And Keller's linguine primavera -- al dente pasta, julienne vegetables, roasted tomatoes and garlic -- comes together well. But spaghetti cacio e pepe -- with butter, olive oil, cracked pepper and Parmigiano --- is undermined by clumps of pasta bound together by the melted cheese. Fine flavor, though.
Rigatoni alla Norma turns out to be a creditable version of eggplant Parm -- crisp fried eggplant topped with mozzarella, fontina, marinara and basil, served over pasta. Lasagna with Bolognese and béchamel sauces, though, comes up mushy. And the otherwise flavorful penne Esme -- with roasted tomato, white wine, butter and shrimp -- features overcooked pasta. True, this occurs on an evening Keller isn't in the house. Even so, it shouldn't happen at all.
Hard to figure why the delicious braised pork shoulder is plated in a pool of truffle-scented polenta that's as liquid as soup. An easy fix: Tighten up the polenta and serve it on the side.
For dessert, whipped ricotta with strawberry compote has a limited appeal.
But Luigi's itself has no shortage of amiability, ambition or promise. Moderate prices make it worth one's while to check back regularly as the place evolves.