A well-known and beloved Flint Italian restaurant, Luigi’s is best known for its super-delicious, super-thin-crust pizza. And, according to Kirk Laue, who co-owns the popular eatery with Tom Beaubien, it’s all about family.
The restaurant originally opened in 1955 and was owned by Gino Carboni, whose recipes are still used today. Following a few other owners, Laue and Beaubien have been serving Italian favorites to their customers for 22 years. “We’re best known for our thin-crust pizza,” Laue says, “and we use the original owner’s recipe.” Many loyal patrons agree, as Luigi’s thin-crust pizza was voted one of Michigan’s Top 10 best out of 260 places within a 2,000-mile radius, he adds.
“From people in tuxedos to people wearing overalls – they all come in for their Luigi’s fix,” Laue says with a smile. Not only is the pizza popular, Luigi’s menu also includes a variety of Italian favorites including melt-in-your-mouth chicken tortellini covered in creamy Alfredo, tomato or butter-garlic sauce. Also on the menu are baked, homemade beef ravioli and Luigi’s famous homemade lasagna. You’ll also find all of your favorite pasta dishes, homemade meatballs, chicken Alfredo, and garlic chicken over angel hair pasta – all served with tossed salad, bread and butter. “Our meatballs were recently voted the best in Genesee County,” Laue says. “They’re hand-rolled and made from the original Luigi’s recipe.” Vegetarian dishes include baked veggie lasagna, eggplant parmigiana and baked cheese or spinach ravioli.
Monday through Friday, diners come to Luigi’s to enjoy the Zap Lunch, which includes a choice of Luigi’s homemade soups, a drink, and a visit to the fresh and delicious antipasto salad bar. The soups are all made from scratch – chili, Italian wedding soup, French onion and chicken noodle with homemade noodles, among others. And, all of the salad dressings are house-made. “It’s a quick and filling lunch,” says Dawn Mastin, General Manager for 35 years. The restaurant also offers pizza specials, family meal deals and even has a taco bar on Tuesdays. “We really do what the customers want,” adds bartender Raquel Littlejohn, an employee for 19 years.
Not in the mood for Italian fare? Luigi’s menu offers a variety of sandwiches, as well as hand-cut, choice ∀ tenderloin filets served with sautéed mushrooms and onions; broiled lemon or Cajun cod, and fish and chips.
What makes the restaurant really special, says the owner, are the families who choose Luigi’s for celebrating important occasions, as well as the regulars who come in for their “Luigi’s fix.” “A lot of our customers grew up in the neighborhood,” says Laue. “It’s a part of their life.” One of hisr favorite customers is a 14-year-old boy who has celebrated his last six birthdays at Luigi’s with a specially requested hot dog pizza. “He brings the hot dogs and we make the pizza,” Laue laughs.
“From people in tuxedos to people wearing overalls –
they all come in for their Luigi’s fix.”
KIRK LAUE, CO-OWNER
Darryl Tonks has been a Luigi’s regular since 1955. He and his wife, Ina, stop in to enjoy the Zap Lunch two to three times a week. “The pizza hasn’t changed since 1955,” Darryl says. “It was good then, and it’s good now. The people who work here are amazing, too. They care about their customers.”
Not only are Luigi’s customers treated like family, the staff is, as well – many have been there for years. Six bartenders serve a wide selection of beers (nine on tap), wine and cocktails at the restaurant that seats up to 140 people. “Our general manager, Dawn, has been a huge asset to the business,” the owner reports.
When customers order pizza to go, they are handed a box printed with, “Thanks for being part of our family.” “That’s what we do at Luigi’s,” Laue says. “We treat everyone like family.”
Photography by Eric Dutro