Sunday, September 14, 2014
Middle sister came into town and wanted to take me out for a belated birthday dinner. She's a gluten free vegetarian and after she did a little "what's new in food in vancouver" and discovered Ask for Luigi and that they offered a g-free pasta option.
We arrived at the tiny spot that used to house the popular "Two Chefs and a Table" in crosstown and were told that there was about a 45 min wait. This spot is cozy and my guess is that it seats about 30 people. The decor and atmosphere feels upscale but not fussy. It feels like an Italian bistro.
We weren't starving and didn't mind. We put our name on the list with our contact info. We walked over to the Alibi Room and killed time with their awesome atmosphere and extensive impressive beer (and cider for the g-free) list. The wait was almost exactly 45 minutes.
The menu is fairly short and sweet with about 10 appetizers and 5-6 different pastas. And they all sound fairly delicious. Unfortunately, the options were pretty limited in terms of vegetarian options that they could make gluten free.
They've got sparkling and still mineral water on tap and a lean wine list by the bottle or by the glass (casual stemless tumbler).
We split the Fried Cauliflower & Aoili appetizer ($12). This was absolutely dynamite. Cauliflower is one food trend that seems to be everywhere and I'm definitely not getting sick of this trend. This dish was a stand out and worth the visit alone. Crispy yet soft with a bit of bite. Cheese, aioli, mint, basil, chickpeas all added some texture and played with dynamic flavours.
Ask for Luigi makes their pasta fresh in house, including the gluten free option. It's a tagliatelle (made with corn and rice flour, potato starch and xantham gum) which can be dressed with any of the sauces on the menu for $2 extra. She's a vegetarian so she only really had one option, with fresh peas, garlic and pea shoots. I had a bite and it was quite tasty with a great freshness.
I'm sucker for Italian dishes, especially anything with tentacles, so when I saw Spaghetti Nero with octopus and jalapeno ($18), I knew what I'd be ordering. This was a visually interesting dish. The noodles with black and the octopus was chopped into tiny rounds. Both the noodles and the octopus had a wonderful chew. The sauce was light with fresh tomato but not very dynamic or bold. The jalapeno was lost on me and I didn't really taste any heat. Our server was surprised when I requested salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Although the fresh pasta was truly a delicious treat, and the octopus was tasty and well prepared, but after a few bites, I found this dish overall to actual be fairly one note and not that exciting.
Overall, we had a nice experience. The space is cute, the service is efficient and friendly, and I do love a good Italian meal with fresh pasta. But this place had been pretty hyped up in social media and press reviews. And the price points are on the higher end. Ask for Luigi was good but not awesome and didn't quite live up to the hype. I was also a bit disappointed that the pricing was a unclear for beverages. Our glasses of wine we ordered ended up being a way more then we thought (we thought they were the house wine by the glass price) and there was a charge for sparkling water (they didn't let us know and kept bringing bottle after bottle of on tap sparking water to the table only for us to discover a $2 per bottle price on the bill.)