No. 41: Ask for Luigi
Many eyebrows arched in skepticism when Ask For Luigi swept the 2015 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards, winning restaurant of the year, best new restaurant, best casual and best casual Italian.
It was a small joint, only 32 seats, modestly decorated to look like ’70s style wood-paneled rec-room. It was in a derelict neighborhood and didn’t take reservations.
The menu was a brief collection of antipasti standards (arancini, meatballs, anchovy-topped eggs), half a dozen handmade pastas, and a few desserts. Wine was served in tumblers. That across the-board simplicity was precisely what made the restaurant so seductive to a city that has historically lacked excellent, yet affordable, Italian cuisine. That, along, with its consistently lip-smacking dishes.
The bright San Marzano tomato sauces, the hand-ground beef meatballs, the calibrating dashes of chili cutting fatty duck ragù—each perfectly balanced bite was a casual expression of the serious talent chef Jean-Christophe Poirier acquired while working at Toqué! and Lumière. As word of mouth spread, people eventually stopped questioning and joined the queue.