Friday, December 19, 2014

Italian next-door neighbors: Luigi’s opens

By ABBY CROSTHWAIT, Herald Staff Writer | 5/10/2013

The neon sign finally turned on Friday afternoon at Luigi’s.

More than a year after announcing plans to open the new restaurant, the family-owned Luigi’s, 127 S. Main St., Ottawa, is ready for business, Zhyllieta Morina said.

Luigi’s bears a name with deep meaning to the family, she said.

“We decided to take my father’s name because we miss him so much,” she said. “Like this, we can remember him every day.”

The family started off opening its first restaurant in the U.S. 15 years ago in Dallas, Texas, and the operation has grown from there, she said. Setting their eyes on the location of Ottawa seemed like a great way to continue their expansion, Morina said.

“We have some in Dallas, Oklahoma, Missouri and one in Leavenworth, Kan.,” she said. “I drive here often and I thought it would be a really good place to open [a restaurant].”

Luigi’s is located next to Bella Cucina, 129 S. Main St., another Italian restaurant, Morina said. When her family first decided on the location next door, she said, Bella Cucina had not yet transitioned from a salon and cafe to a restaurant.

“When we came here, we walked over there, to the hair dresser salon, and we go into the back, and we took a coffee and told them we were making a restaurant, and they said ‘OK,’” Morina said. “We didn’t know that they were going to make it an Italian restaurant, and we had already signed the lease.”

Though the Italian restaurants share the sidewalk, Morina said, she’s not concerned with Bella Cucina stealing any of Luigi’s business.

“I’ve met them and they are really very nice, and I don’t think we have a problem because they have a totally different menu,” she said. “We are maybe both Italian, but we are totally different.”

Morina said she’s tried Bella Cucina’s food, and although it was very good, she said their tastes are completely different.

“We make everything homemade, everything’s fresh,” she said. “A lot of the recipes are from my grandfather and father.”

Luigi’s has been getting its space ready since October 2012, Morina said. The renovations took more time than anticipated.

“It took so long because it took a long time to make everything new,” she said of the space that formerly was Sandbar Sub Shop. “The water and gas, we really had to start it from the beginning to make a restaurant out of this place. We had to put in a new kitchen and water and ceiling.”

Since the restaurant is family owned and operated, everyone is working together all the time, she said, which leads to a lot of fun and laughter.

“We love it,” she said. “We actually never fight, but we joke so much that it hurts.”

Morina said she anticipates the Ottawa location being successful because of the time spent making the food, and that her families love of food and cooking will speak for itself.

“We really love to cook,” Morina said. “We never serve something if we don’t love it.”

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