Pizza of dreams

Luigi's serves up a pie to die for on the world's flimsiest paper plates

Five handwritten pages from a devoted diner--how could I ignore this request to check out her favorite pizza place?

A transplanted New Yorker yearning for the pizza joint of her childhood, she discovered a menu attached to her doorknob one day which led to the pizza of dreams at a New York pizzeria, "the kind of place I had my first date in when I was a teenager."

All I can say is this: it was easier for her than for me. Walnut and Audelia is a long way to go to a neighborhood pizza joint.

If you make it, they will come. That seems to be the idea behind Luigi's, the only live spot in a ghost-town shopping center, the red neon spelling out L-U-I-G-I-S as a vain and valiant SOS to drivers-by who mostly seem to keep on going. At least, Luigi's was deserted the night we drove out to Garland--Mapsco in hand, map light on--to find the pizza.

The place itself is unimpressive. There are a couple of video games and a ceiling-high TV. The walls are covered with terrible murals of Venice and mirrors over the booths, and tables are covered with checked plastic cloths. You place your order at the back counter and eat an anemic salad of iceberg soaked in bottled Italian dressing until one of the kids brings you your pizza--which is impressive.

It's a big pie, even the medium one we ordered. The bread crust is crisp and cooked even in the middle, bearing up admirably under the weight of the cheese and olives, unlike the pitifully inadequate paper plates which wilted immediately and the even more inadequate napkins, a whole flurry of which were defeated by the oil and tomato onslaught. Plastic forks and knives proved equally useless.

Why knives, you might ask. I'm not so prissy, but I do like to cut my pizza with a knife and fork, at least until the cheese re-solidifies. I actually don't like pizza smokin' hot; like lasagna and baked pasta, I prefer it when it's reset a little, returned to a less excited state with the ingredients closer to their normal consistency.

Anyway, considering the combination of Luigi's pizza and tableware, it's a safer way to eat dinner, though really, this is pizza you have to give yourself up to in order to enjoy.

The calzone, which was never mentioned in the letter, was easier to eat, and actually, I liked it more than the pizza. The same dough seemed even better when there was more brown crust (and calzone is all crust), and the filling of layered meatballs and white mozzarella was substantial but less...could "intimidating" be the right word?

But my pen pal was right--this is very good pizza. I'm not so sure I'd drive to Garland again for it, but if I was anywhere close, I'd definitely get it delivered. It certainly beats a trip to the "Italian neighborhoods of the North Bronx," which, according to my correspondent, is the closest place to get an approximation of this pie.

Keep writing.

--Mary Brown Malouf

Luigi's Pizza , 9780 Walnut (SW corner of Walnut and Audelia), 918-9598. Open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 4 p.m.-10 p.m.

Luigi's Pizza:
Large (14") Neapolitan Pizza, basic cheese $7.50 (additional ingredients extra

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