Luigi's Italian Gourmet Restaurant has a history that goes back more than 60 years, before we opened the first Italian restaurant offering authentic Italian cuisine in Roanoke, Virginia. It all started with a soldier returning from deployment, who happened to stop by a small Italian restaurant back in 1945.
That Deciding Moment In 1945, a young marine named Lou stopped in New York City on his way home on leave from overseas. He and a buddy had dinner at Mama Leone's family Italian restaurant. The line of people waiting was so long, Lou knew he wouldn't be able to make his train home to New England. Lou's buddy, a New Yorker, knew one of Leone's cooks so the 2 went around back to the kitchen. They found the cook who introduced the hungry men to the "boss" and explained their plight. The "boss" promptly seated them in the employee's room just off the kitchen and told them they could have anything from the menu. Lou was highly impressed with the activity in the kitchen: the great pots of sauces, pastas, and meats sizzling on the grills and broilers and hot breads in the ovens. He told the "boss" he would have his own Italian restaurant one day. The "boss" who turned out to be Gene Leone, Mama Leone's son, gave Lou a cookbook he had written. The cookbook became the basis for many of Lou's recipes and is still being used today. The cookbook is now covered with stains but still serves as a reminder of the act of kindness, which inspired Lou to finally open the first and finest Italian restaurant in Roanoke.