In a city seemingly obsessed with all that is light, healthy, and gluten-free, it may come as a surprise to some Vancouverites that a pasta joint has won our hearts—and stomachs—this year.
Ask for Luigi, a small Railtown eatery with at least a half-dozen unapologetically rich and satisfying carb-heavy dishes on its menu, was voted best new restaurant in the Georgia Straight’s online readers’ choice survey this year.
When Straight staffers contacted more than 100 chefs and restaurateurs for our annual survey of restaurant-industry insiders, the same conclusion was reached: Ask for Luigi earned the most votes in the Best New Restaurant category.
Chef and co-owner J-C Poirier, whose credentials include working at Campagnolo and Lumière, quietly opened Ask for Luigi at the end of 2013. The restaurant’s name, according to its website, comes from the idea that “we are always more inclined to have a better experience when we go where we know somebody, or when a friend sends us to see someone they know.”
The restaurant only takes a handful of reservations for its 34 seats each night. Inside, the décor is slightly old-school and unfussy. General manager Matthew Morgenstern explained to the Straight that both these elements help Ask for Luigi maintain its casual neighbourhood feel.
“I call it ‘pasta for the people’,” Morgenstern said by phone. “Our neighbours, they can come down, put their name on the list, go back home and watch a little bit of TV, and we just text them when their table’s ready.”
Being named best new restaurant isn’t the only honour Ask for Luigi received in this year’s Golden Plates. The eatery was also voted best Italian restaurant in the city in both the industry survey and the readers’ choice. With a mix of authentic Italian-inspired dishes and fresh made-in-house pastas, Ask for Luigi managed to edge out long-running Italian restaurants such as Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca and La Quercia in that competitive category.
Last year’s Best New Restaurant winner in the industry survey, Farmer’s Apprentice, took other honours this year. Its chef and co-owner, David Gunawan, was voted as the city’s best chef by his peers. Prior to opening his Fairview spot, Gunawan honed his skills at Wildebeest and West restaurants in Vancouver and cooked at the Michelin-starred In De Wulf in Belgium.
At Farmer’s Apprentice, Gunawan changes the menu almost daily, depending on what the suppliers bring in. A philosophy of embracing what’s seasonal and local helped Farmer’s Apprentice also win Best Use of Local Ingredients in the industry survey for the second year in a row. In the readers’ choice, the restaurant tied with Forage for second place in that category. Kitsilano’s Fable was considered by readers to use local ingredients best.
Established favourites Le Crocodile, Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, Vij’s, and Maenam won industry awards in the French, Chinese, Indian, and Other Asian categories, respectively. Find a full list of industry-insider results here.