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Photo Courtsey of George Carrion , BHS'85

Luigi's Ristorante
for a photo tour
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circa.1980's
Around the corner from the Palace Theater, between Portland and Washington Avenues, on Bedford Street in Bergenfield, sits a charming out of the way place known for years as Luigi's.
 I know this for a fact because my dinner partner for the evening was none other than Barry Detwiler, our Publisher, who began going there 16 years ago, and according to him, it hasn't changed at all.

 The floor is wood. There are a dozen or so well worn booths amid the wooden beams, Tiffany  lamps and the assortment of wine bottles. WNEW played softly in the background. It was Bing Crosby crooning so sweetly.

 Luigi's is like one of those New York City hideaways on some side street where you would go to meet a special friend. Small, intimate, friendly, you know "your place."
 Luigi is long gone because the new owners, John and Cathy Cirelli, have been there for 22 years. The only major change in the place is that now kitten, their daughter, is also a chef and switches off with her dad.  Besides cooking, John loves to paint. Coats of Arms adorn the walls along with sketches and oils that he has done. 

 After a few minutes, I was right at home as I listend to B.D. reminisce about the last time he was here. In this ever changing society, it is very rare that something remains pretty much the same over the years. My first treat that Cathy brought out was a steaming bowl of cream of potato soup. For those of you who are unacquainted with my column, I love soup and I am an ardent admirer of those who can take the time and make a good pot of soup. As for cream of potato soup, I never saw a bowl of it as I grew up, because my papa had an intense dislike of it. It was only later in life that I discovered what I had been missing through my formative years and what a wonderful thing something so simple could be.  For those with similar attitudes, here's a little cooking tip that I am throwing in for nothing: Cut up some cheddar cheese, stir it in your potato soup as you simmer it, then garnish the bowl by sprinkling some shredded cheddar before serving. 
And now back to Luigi's.
 The soup met with my approval and as I savored the gentle aftertaste, our hot antipasto was brought to us. The plate was loaded with baked mussels, shrimp covered in a thick blanket of mozzarella, clams, eggplant, tomato and mushroom, all baked with ample amounts of seasoned breadcrumbs then engulfed in a marvelous thick n' rich tomato sauce. This was afccompanied by a half loaf of fresh crusty Italian  bread so that you could soak up every last delicious drop.

 Other appetizers on the menu include: Zuppa Di Clams (3.50), Clams Forentine (5.50), Mussels in butter and win (3.75), Shrimp Oreganata (4.75), Luigi's Salad for Two (4.50), Clams on the Half (3.25), Mozzarella Sticks (3.75), and Clams Casino (5.50). (They also make a Broccoli and Cavatelli Soup that you know who is coming back for.)
 The courses were nicely paced and our entrees came a little while later.
 Cannelloni Besciamella - these were large tubed psta stuffed with rigotta and spinach in a cream sauce topped with a tomato sauce. You just have to try it!
 As for the Shrim Parmagiana, the jumbo shrimp were simply buried in mozzarella in a pool of that delicious sauce. It was accompanied by a dish of linguini with more tomato sauce in which I found small shrimp that added such a nice touch. 
 The main entrees are reasonably priced between six and twelve dollars. In the seafood department, there is Sole Scampi, Flounder Florentine and Provencal, Shrimps Scampi, Marinara and not to mention Parma and Lobster or Crab Fra Diavolo.
 They do some special things with veal: Saltimbocca, Parma, Francaise. There is also a Stuffed Veal Breast, Veal and Mushrooms in a light sherry sauce, Veal Rossini, covered with sliced tomatoes and bacon baked with mozzarella (John and Kitten do a Chicken Breast that way too).

 After finding Moussaka on the menu (a Greek dish with eggplant, ground lamb, tomato and besciamella sauce), I inquried further into the Cirelli nature. Cathy told me that John loves to cook and has a million cook books and he is constantly seeking out new recipes and Cirelli-izing them like his Suffed Flounder filled with shrimp and scallops served in a dill cream sauce or the Filet of Sole Sorrento, with wine, capers and white raisins.
 After 22 years, there is still a lot of artistry in John Cirelli and it shows in the works of art he serves his customers.

 There are lots of pasta dishes on the menu, Steak and Pork Chops, Pizza and Sandwiches. The only thing that I couldn't figure out was why the place wasn't packed to the rafters on this Wednesday night.

 For dessert we had a quality cup of coffee and split a Cannolli and a Peach Melba. Oh what a great way to finish a meal! By the way there is also Tortoni, Spumoni, and Strawberry's Romanoff, but I think we won wit our choices, and if I am wrong, there is always next time.

 Luigi's comes highly recommended so try it and it just may become "your special place." Hourse: 4-11 P.M. Weekdays; Fri., Sat., Sun. 'till 12 midnight.  Bon Appetite!

-Ron Riley
Gourmet on the go
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Photo Courtsey of George  Carrion , BHS'85

for a photo tour of Luigi's
click here
. . .

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