Adventures in Akron: Luigi’s

The place in Akron for pizza is Luigi’s. Period. End of discussion.

The place in Akron for pizza is Luigi’s. Period. End of discussion.

Funny thing is, the rest of the menu is equally delicious. It’s practically a rite of passage for Akronites to visit this downtown eatery where they serve the coolest, crispest salads topped with a simple, but scrumptious homemade Italian dressing that has never changed. That’s your only choice for dressing, by the way. Don’t even utter the word ranch. And you have to get it with cheese. It’s piled so high and wide, you’ll have to dig until you hit your first leaf of lettuce.

akron_luigis2From the black and white autographed photos that cover a wall along the entry aisle to the miniature bandbox above the door and the near-retro booths and tables, the place oozes character. Lots of character. That comes with nearly seven decades in business—Rose and Nick Ciriello opened Luigi’s in 1949.

It started as a steak house. But funny thing happened. Customers preferred Rose’s Italian dishes, and the place evolved into what it remains today: pizza and classic Italian dishes, such as pastas, meatballs and baked dishes.

And it’s going strong as ever.

Even when the city closed off North Main Street in the 1970s to build the Y-Bridge, leaving Luigi’s seemingly stranded on an island, the customers still came and ate. It’s common for dinner time lines to snake outside the door.

The Ciriello’s son Mickey retired as manager five years ago.

Today, a grandson manages the restaurant, which is open until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and midnight the rest of the week.

“It’s all still in the family,” said Bonnie Nicols, a Luigi’s employee since 1980.

She said the restaurant has hosted everything from birthday parties to weddings.

The key to Luigi’s staying power, Nicols said, is quality ingredients and consistency. Mickey Ciriello, she said, always harped on those two things.

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