Not many Northeast Ohio residents would call Luigi’s (105 N. Main St., Akron, 330-253-2999, luigisrestaurant.com) a gourmet restaurant, but there’s something to be said for tradition. Luigi's is a long standing family-owned business that still has lines out the door most nights, even in this harsh winter weather. Since 1949, Luigi’s has been providing fast and delicious pizza, pasta and exceedingly cheesy salads to locals who love the comfortable, informal atmosphere and homemade Italian cuisine.
Luigi’s became somewhat famous in the '70s when it was depicted as “Montoni’s Pizza,” a pizza joint owned by comic strip figure Funky Winkerbean. Strip writer Tom Batiuk was born in Akron and attended nearby Kent State University.
With an emphasis on hearty portions, Luigi’s is a favorite of nearby Akron University students and diners from all over. Families with happy babies are perched next to others with never ending carafes of inexpensive red wine. Tables are auctioned off according to the number in one's party so as to seat as many people as quickly as possible in the three dining rooms. Luigi's serves well into the night/early morning, an approach that draws an eclectic crowd. You might spot bands from the bar next door enjoying a post-set nosh or Blossom staffers dining out after the concert facility has been shut down for the night. The restaurant’s cash-only policy is often met with consternation by newbies, but an on-site ATM alleviates most problems.
Pizzas are numbered 1 through 10 and offer a variety of choices, with smalls (7-inchers) starting at less than $7 and toppings $1.35 each. (Larges start at $11.15) A hearty portion of lasagna can be had for less than $10. Don’t skip the famous side salad ($4.55) topped with a mountain of whole milk mozzarella.
On your way out, grab a T-shirt that reads: “If lost, return to Luigi’s, Akron, Ohio.” It's just $13 — cash.