Locavore approved? The local movement is not exactly their thing, but I did notice that many of their ingredients (peas, arugula and mushrooms in their feature dish) are certainly seasonal so it is likely that they might source locally in addition to importing some of their more authentic ingredients. One thing I noted that was really awesome was their support for local charities. They offer still and sparkling water on tap, with proceeds going to to support a different local cause each month.
Ask for Luigi has been on my to-do list for a while now but, with reported wait times of up to four hours when they first opened, I thought I would wait until the hype died down a little before checking it out.
When my friend and I showed up at about 7:45 on a Saturday night, we were pleased to hear that we would only have to wait an hour for a table (for those of you not from Vancouver, this is a pretty average wait time believe it or not!). Since there is no bar or any other place to wait in the small room, they are happy to take your phone number while you wander around the area.
Fortunately, there are many great places nearby pass the time while you wait. The place that I highly recommend is the Vancouver Urban Winery which is a quick 1 block walk from Ask Luigi. There, I enjoyed a wine made on-site (a lovely Pinot Gris) and my friend and I shared a beet and goat cheese dip from Belgard Restaurant which is affiliated to the winery. We were very impressed with how beautiful the room was and look forward to returning on another occasion.
Just as we were finishing up at Vancouver Urban Winery, we got the much anticipated telephone call that our table was just about ready. We hurried back to get to our table just as it was being set. As mentioned previously, the room is very small so do not expect much space between tables and quite a but of noise. Having said that, I quite enjoyed the energy of the room and the "hominess" that came with it.
If I could describe the service it one word it would be "efficient", which is necessary in such a small, busy restaurant. I would not necessarily use the word "warm" in describing our servers, but they took care of all of our needs and got all of our dishes to us quickly. With all of the hype this place has built up in its short lifetime, I can understand why there is the need to get people seated, served and out the door but I wished that the hominess that the room exuded has come across a bit more in the service.
Ask for Luigi is serious about its wine and spirits and recommends that its dishes be enjoyed with wine, particularly white wine. In true Italian style, they also offer a range of aperitifs and a prosecco on tap. Wine on tap is available in a half litre which we felt was the perfect amount for the two of us. Only a couple wines are available by the glass, but if you commit to drinking at least 2 glasses of the same wine for the table, they will open a bottle for you. After they have opened a bottle, a bell will ring to draw your attention to the wine board that will be updated to let patrons know that this new opened wine has now become available by the glass. Pretty cool, hey?
The menu is short and sweet, with about 10 antipastis (appetizers) and 6 different pastas. There are also a few daily specials. Their website says that dishes are meant to be shared family-style. My friend and I shared two antipastis but then decided to get our own pasta dishes and this worked out just fine. Here is a look at our meal:
Arugula, endive and goat cheese salad- This truly was the perfect start to the meal and the generous portion made it good for sharing. The arugula was was tender, fresh and perfectly dressed. It was complemented by sliced endive, goat cheese and particularly yummy hazelnuts.
Eggplant involtini- Again, this was a great sharing dish and may have been a bit heavy had a had the whole plate to myself, especially with a pasta course coming next. The thinly sliced eggplant was rolled around a cheesy filling and served with a perfectly seasoned tomato sauce overtop. Even those who think they dislike eggplant are bound to love this dish.
Ricotta ravioli, peas and marinated tomatoes- This was one of two vegetarian pasta dishes on the menu. The homemade pasta exterior was delicious and cooked el dente. The interior had a generous amount of ricotta filling and there was a very light butter sauce over top. Tender peas added a bit of "pop", both in texture and in colour. I loved the marinated tomatoes and wished there were more. Some have remarked that the pastas are quite salty but I felt that mine was seasoned just right.
Papperdelle and duck ragu- This was my friend's choice of main and she enjoyed it immensely. The papperdelle was piled high on the place and tossed with duck and a light tomato sauce.
After visiting Ask for Luigi, I can certainly understand why people like it here so much. It is casual and fun and, most importantly, the food is pretty great. I have a feeling that this place will get even better when things get a little less hectic and the staff have the time and energy to to create the homey and inviting atmosphere that this little gem was meant to have. I will certainly be back with friends and family over the summer for another great meal!