Our Restaurant of the Year prize is meant to spotlight that which proved most revelatory, most exciting, and, above all, most consistently delicious throughout a specific period. To that end, and to our palates, Ask for Luigi tastes like 2014’s premier success.
When Farmer’s Apprentice swept up three major accolades at last year’s Restaurant Awards—including Restaurant of the Year—our judges’ decision was deemed controversial, to say the least. How was it, many inquired, that an eatery so new, and thus so thoroughly excused from the chance to become complacent or to exhaust its novelty factor, could triumph over those that had proved their excellence for years rather than mere months? We expect Ask for Luigi—which this year claims four top ribbons—to arch a similar number of skeptical eyebrows. Launched in December 2013 (following a short soft opening), the room seems purposely, uniformly modest: small (only 32 seats), in a space hastily abandoned by its former tenant (Two Chefs and a Table), and offering a menu of uncommon brevity and specificity (some small plates, half a dozen pastas, a trio of desserts). Yet this very artlessness is what’s proven so seductive to everyone who eats here. In a city that, for all its culinary accomplishments, has historically lacked excellent yet affordable Italian cuisine, Luigi redresses the problem so effortlessly, it seems to encourage us to take it for granted. Chef and co-owner J-C Poirier’s food aims not to break new ground but to exemplify the best notion of that which is wholly familiar—whether spaghetti Bolognese or olive-oil cake. “Every plate, no matter how small, is given exacting attention,” says one judge. “The results are a real statement of focus and balance.” Which is why this ostensibly “neighbourhood” joint—in a ’hood where, as yet, few actually live—immediately became a destination, prompting the reliable sight of a line outside its Railtown door. Our Restaurant of the Year prize is meant to spotlight that which proved most revelatory, most exciting, and, above all, most consistently delicious throughout a specific period. To that end, and to our palates, Ask for Luigi tastes like 2014’s premier success. Runner-up: Hawskworth