FLINT, Michigan—First, a familiar feeling hits you as you walk in the little alcove and see the mishmash of old black and white photos and some featuring smiling faces, mullets, and big hair. Next the aroma of garlic hits you.
Once inside the interior of Luigi’s, you are surrounded again by that sense of familiarity of a classic family Italian restaurant. Ahh, this is Luigi’s, part Flint staple and part historic institution.
“Nothing has changed, we’re doing it the same way they were doing it 62 years ago.” owner Kirk Laue says. “People love the pizza at Luigi’s because we’ve kept and stayed true to the same recipe. We stay fresh, and it’s baked on bricks.”
Laue and his business partner Tom Beaubien took over the business, located at 2132 Davison Road on Flint's eastside, in 1995 and remain committed to maintaining the same thin crust and red sauce deliciousness that have brought generation after generation through its familiar doors.
Clearing his throat, Laue says, “Yeah, it is about the food, but it isn’t just about the food. This is a place for families. It’s not just where you feel at home—It is home.”
Laue sits across the table staunch, straightforward, with a bit of a mischievous smirk and a bone-crushing handshake.
He talks with pride about Luigi’s history and legacy. In the 1940s, it was a bar called Spickles. Then in the 1950s, “a local guy by the name of Gino Carboni had traveled out to California and tried some pizza out there,” Laue said. “He came back and said, ‘I think I can do it better!’”
Carboni ran Luigi’s from 1955 to 1964 handing over the business to a brother an sister by the name of Louis Appolonia and Carmen Angel. They, along with Carmen’s husband, Russ, ran the pizzeria until Laue and his wife took over.
“I mean people understand, we’re kind of a dinosaur, yes, you can get a pizza at Little Caesar’s in 7 minutes, but that’s not why people come here,” Laue said.
Even on a rainy-snowy Michigan spring day, the place is filled with regulars. Laue says people come to Luigi’s for every season of life. “I mean we get the whole thing, you know? We get the birthdays, baptisms, the school fundraisers, and the funerals.”
Looking across the wall at the rows of pictures over the years, Laue said, “This is the kind of place that does well even in hard times. Families come here to sit down together and have a pizza. You sit down and you share it.
“It’s what keeps people coming back.”
Just the other day Laue recalls a couple was approached by another a at corner table. “The couple that walked up said, ‘We got in engaged at that table 50 years ago.’ The people who were sitting down smiled and got up,” Laue smirked. “They got up and said, ‘It’s all yours. It is your table.’ That’s what this is about.”
Leaning back Laue said the one thing people don’t tend to understand about Flint people is, “Folks around here stick together,” he said.
And, that means at Luigi’s, be prepared for impromptu good times with friends and family.
“We have family members or people from church or school sit down and not know the other was there, before you know it you got a party of folks sitting together, all coming together here.”
Our tip: Bring a group for pizza and order the breadsticks with a little of the red wine vinegar. And, for a special treat check out the quick lunch with a salad bar and three homemade soups.
Luigi's is open 10 a.m.-midnight Monday through Friday, noon-midnight Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.