Ask for it all at Luigi!
It’s that good!
My love for the egg is legendary, but the hallowed egg takes a back seat to creativity at Ask for Luigi, the only place in town where pasta and polenta are staples on both the brunch and dinner menus. After all, if you can eat eggs for dinner, then why not pasta for brunch?
If this is not a “must visit” place on your brunch calendar, then you’re missing out. Everything is good, and nothing disappoints, except perhaps, your ability to try everything on the menu in one sitting. Plates pass by on their way to other tables and it’s impossible to not watch them go by and think, “If I only had room left.”
Ask for Luigi made almost every top ten restaurant list last year, garnering consistent applause for their house made pasta, and dinner menu. It was well deserved; there isn’t a weak spot on the menu, from their little pillows of ricotta goodness (the ravioli) to the flavour punch that is their panna cotta. There’s nothing not to love. The question was, could chef/owner, Jean-Christophe Poirier do the same with brunch? The answer is a resounding YES.
Sunday brunch might be the best way to spend a rainy Vancouver Sunday. With the right friend, there’s no better way to start the day. At Ask for Luigi, start with the coffee. Their in-house baristas know how to pull a mean espresso, and that’s the perfect après-Saturday night drink to start your Sunday morning with; strong, flavourful, and served in a small glass. It transports you to that perfect little Italian cafe where you can while away the morning.
Today’s brunch consisted of two poached eggs with ricotta stuffed eggplant and tomato sauce for myself, pork belly with a fried egg, salsa verde & creamy polenta for my brunch bestie, and fingerling potatoes cooked in duck fat to share. Everything is better in duck fat, but when you finish it with a dusting of parmesan, the result is irresistible. The ricotta was light, flavourful, and perfectly nestled in the eggplant. Let the egg yolk open and drizzle over the ricotta and eggplant roll before cutting in. The dish is best enjoyed as a flavour combination.
Lastly, it’s hard to hold back the superlatives for the pork belly and polenta. The polenta is silky smooth, with great flavour. Mix it with the swirl of salsa verde and it takes on a whole new level. The pork belly serving is generous, and meaty. The fat content of pork belly can sometimes be a little too high for me here, but not at Luigi’s. There was a perfect balance between fat and meat, with meat the winning ratio by a landslide. Everything was delicious and made even more so by dustings of parmesan everywhere.
Feeling full and happy, my brunch bestie and I sat back to enjoy our coffee while watching the tables around us get served. We had a “V-8” moment when the table behind us received the pappardelle alla bolognese and fried egg and the zucchini frittata with roasted tomato and goat cheese. The plates were moved to the middle as they split the two orders between them. One dish lighter than the other, it looked like the perfect pairing. “Next time”, we said… “next time”.
This was my second time at Ask for Luigi and I have to admit, I ordered the same thing. I’m ready to graduate to breakfast pasta next time. It’s impressive that Ask for Luigi has made me okay with the idea that it isn’t all about the egg. Here, it’s all about everything on the menu.
Note: Dinner line-ups are the norm here. We arrived at eleven AM, and it was raining. We got a table right away. Just in case, plan accordingly; this is a meal worth lining up for.
A meal like this deserves to be followed by a cozy movie afternoon on the couch. An obvious choice would be The Godfather, but if you want to watch a true classic, watch 8 ½ . Federico Fellini crafted one of the true classics of Italian cinema.
305 Alexander St, Vancouver
Hours: Saturday & Sunday, 9.30AM – 2.30PM, open for lunch and dinner as well
Michelle Muldoon is a Vancouver-based writer and filmmaker who loves great food and wine. Find her on Twitter at @Chat2Michelle