By Akshaya Iyer
Friendly faced and bursting with the magic that a good chef always seems to possess, Antonio Marco embodies old world charm. Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta is the inanimate recreation of those traits; quiet, pleasant, small enough to be cozy, with classic Italian music crooning in the background. This restaurant is his love child with Italy and America and it shows.
Marco was born in Calabria, Italy along with his six brothers and three sisters. Marco’s family’s love for food was apparent in every aspect of their life, the groundwork of their familial ties. This passion translated easily to cooking. “I grew up in the kitchens of Italy,” Marco says fondly of his upbringing.
His family was larger than life, as were their dreams. His grandfather, Luigi, moved to the States in 1977 with the dream of starting a restaurant, and more than two decades later, Marco followed in his footsteps, arriving in America, with his wife, Elca, in 2001 with a dream and an idea.
Marco began working under his uncle, at first. It took a few years before he approached aforementioned uncle, Luigi Jr., with the idea of starting his own place. Luigi Jr. agreed, under one condition.
“He didn’t trust me yet to give me the Luigi name,” Marco explains with a laugh; and so Verona Pizza and Italian restaurant came into existence, in Decatur, Texas. The business flourished, the food and wine flowed effortlessly, and soon, Marco was allowed the Luigi name.
“We own locations in Alvin, Conroe, and Angleton to name a few,” Marco reveals about he and his business partner and brother, Nick. Their current League City location has been open for a brief amount of time and they’ve already drawn in a loyal crowd of regulars. His lunch specials are revered by his customers; 15 options for just under $6, and the meal comes with the option of a salad or soup.
Marco discloses that he misses the creative freedom that a restaurant in Italy allows. “There is no menu in Italy,” he describes. “Every day there is something different. About four to five choices. It’s like a family meal.”
But Marco allows his Italian upbringing and ideology to translate into Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta. Appearing horrified at the idea of frozen ingredients and pre-made sauces, he confirms that all his recipes are homemade and straight from the kitchens of Calabria.
Freshly rolled out pasta, original, tangy sauce, and a hearty homemade dough are a few of his specialties. He takes pride in his Italian sausage, carefully marinated in vodka sauce and cooked with olive oil and chicken, his special alla panna sauce, which is a delightful combination of alfredo and marinara, and his veal marsala, playfully simmered with mushrooms and wine sauce. The Tiramisu, a delectable Italian coffee-flavored treat, is homemade and one bite takes you straight to the Italian countryside.
When questioned about his inspiration behind his delicious food and fantastic service, he pauses and replies with a smile, “I just want to cook.”
Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta is open from Monday to Thursday from 11 to 9 and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is located at 210 S. Highway 3, Suite C, in League City. Reservations are not necessary.