There’s more seafood than pasta in Luigi’s shrimp scallopini. Not that anyone’s complaining. Photo by Anthony Mariani.

Luigi’s Italian Restaurant

4610 Western Center Blvd, Haltom City. 817-893-5884. 11am-8pm Sun, 11am-9pm Tue-Sat. All major credit cards accepted. BYOB.

In the wilds of North Fort Worth, just a few miles from Alliance Town Center, the independent dining options are somewhat limited. Chain establishments abound. As a card-carrying bleeding heart, I feel compelled to usher my family to and fro as many mom-and-pop joints as possible when we’re up for dining out. A regular haunt is Flips Patio Grill, a veritable empty beer-bottle throw from Chez Mariani. Another is a little farther away, in Watauga. Fresco’s Cocina Mexicana is good for the occasional afternoon splurge – you’ve got to be made of money to make it a regular stop.

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New to the area is Luigi’s Italian Restaurant. Housed in the dreary stripmall space formerly occupied by the decent Roma Pizza & Pasta, this Western Center Boulevard spot tries hard and hits the mark often enough to warrant a “highly recommended if you’re in the area” rating or – or – if you have a thing for authentic New York-style pizza, and who doesn’t.

Pizza worth suffering through 35-North traffic? Even for regulars of Cane Rosso, Chimera Brewing Company, Cork & Pig, Fireside Pies, Olivella’s, Taverna, and the three or four other Italian spots that constitute the apex of Neapolitan pie in Fort Worth proper? I’m tellin’ you …

After I had it for the first time about a year ago, I had been begging my family for any excuse to go back. I admit, as happy as Luigi’s pie had made my taste buds, I was also driven a little by nostalgia. The bright red sauce had the same zesty, sugary kick and the crust the same floury fluffiness as that of a long-defunct restaurant from the Northeastern Italian-American neighborhood of my youth. (R.I.P., Del’s!) And the cheese. Luigi’s mozzarella forms a uniform blanket of juicy, glistening whiteness that, once tasted, clings to your soul and, once ingested, clings to your bones.

The servings aren’t chintzy either. This is large pizza the way large pizza is meant to be: 16 inches and with some heft to it. I’ll even go as far as to say skip the toppings. No kidding. As tasty as pepperoni, Italian sausage, hamburger, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, green and black olives, anchovies, and jalapeños sound, they would only accidentally blaspheme the scrumptious, heaven-sent marriage of bread, sauce, and cheese regularly spun serenade-like from Luigi’s oven. A large cheese is also only about 11 bucks. The $5 saved from choosing Luigi’s over Cork & Pig or Fireside Pies can go toward gas money.

In a never-ending and perennially unsuccessful effort to lose weight, I am ruefully obliged to limit my Luigi’s pizza intake to two slices per outing. I had to limit it to zero the other day to be able to try some of the other items on the menu, starting with the shrimp scallopini.

The part of the dish that thinner future me really appreciated was that there was about as much seafood as linguini. Translation: There was a ton of seafood. The scallops were beefy and buttery, the shrimp big and thick, and the mussels just the right amount of chewy and hearty. Dressed in marinara sauce, sherry, olive oil, garlic, and basil, and served with half a lemon, Luigi’s shrimp scallopini was flavorful and filling but nowhere near gut-busting. (Much appreciated.)

Of the handful of other menu items that sounded good – Chicken Aristocrat (topped with eggplant, provolone cheese; sauteed in sherry cream sauce), linguini tutto mare (mussels, shrimp, scallops, calamari, baby clams; served in garlic butter sauce), and sausage pizzaiola (Italian sausage sauteed with mushrooms, onions, green peppers; served with marinara over spaghetti) – my family and I opted for the good ol’ fashioned baked ziti. The flavors were fine, a pleasant melange of al dente pasta in a spirited marinara with nubs of ricotta cheese beneath a small but dense layer of oozing mozzarella. Too bad the pot had stayed in the oven too long. Some of the edges of the noodles were charred.

The meal started with garlic bread – melt-in-your-mouth slices covered with soft tomato wheels and melted mozzarella – and also included a house salad (greens with mushrooms, black olives, and shredded mozzarella). The house sauce was a tomato-basil number. My wife chose it. I would always rather go for something less reminiscent of cold marinara, but, hey, I’m not the vegetarian here, just the 100-percent Italian guy from an Italian neighborhood up north. What do I know. (Creamy Italian dressing is the only way to go.)

Luigi’s Italian Restaurant

Large cheese pizza $10.95

Garlic bread $4.95

House salad $4.50

Baked ziti $7.95

Shrimp scallopini $16.95