A few months ago I spent the night in Midland, Texas on a business trip. The area around Odessa and Midland are booming to
such as extent that one or the other city is frequently mentioned on national news as having the lowest unemployment rate in the nation (essentially: zero). Hotel rooms that were $90 only 18 months ago now go for $300 per night, and sell out weeks in advance. Restaurants are packed, with waiting lines even in mid-weeks, but sections of them will often be closed off because the places can’t find enough wait staff or cooks to service all the tables.
I lived in this area during high school, and one restaurant we frequented was Luigi’s Italian Restaurant in Midland. Tucked in between two office buildings, the narrow restaurant was popular for weekend crowds and high school prom dates. Complete with red-and-white checkered tablecloths and candlesticks made of old Chiantibottles,
it was the only place in the Permian Basin to get Italian food, that wasn’t a chain with the word “Pizza” in it. This was the real deal! Here, I learned that Italian was definitely not what my mother called spaghetti, and that eggplant would not poison you. The place had a tiny dark bar with perhaps three tables and a few barstools, and a long bench near the narrow front hallway where you could crowd in, sip your drink, and wait for your name to be called.
In years since, I’ve eaten at many fine Italian restaurants, learned to make a mean red sauce and proper poletti from a guy who learned from his immigrant mother, and found that Italian doesn’t mean that everything is drowned in red sauce and cheese from a green can. So, when I was trying to find a dinner place in Midland that wasn’t based on TexMex(see any of my previous food posts!), and overhead someone thanking the hotel clerk for a recommendation to Luigi’s, I knew I had my place.
Being a bit early in both the evening and in the week, we didn’t have to park blocks away from the restaurant nor wait for a table. The place was doing a brisk take-out business on their well-regarded pizza. My coworker and I ordered: she had spaghetti and I tried the eggplant Parmesan. The food came out bubbling hot and…bland. The sauce was tomato, but lacked any zip, hints of acidity, or delicate herb flavors. I didn’t dislike it, but it was nothing that I would travel back for. I had one glass of red wine with my meal, but I noticed that the menu prominently said that no one would be served more than two glasses or two alcoholic drinks, and would not be served at all if the waiter thought you had been drinking. A note on the back explained that a drunk driver had killed a young relative of the owner.
This place has also been a hangout for the community theater crowd for many years, and the walls are decorated with memorabilia and photos from past years’ productions.
When I returned home, I went through the Trip Advisor and other review sites and can summarize the reviews in three sentences. First, this is one of the best, most popular restaurants in Midland and has been for decades. Second, if you are a foodie or from a large city with many choices, you will be disappointed. Third, it’s comfortable, casual, mid-priced, and friendly, so you will have a nice time.
- On ‘Authenticity’ and Why I Just Want a Burrito That Tastes Good (fitzador.wordpress.com)
- Austin -> Midland (ontheroadwithariphillips.com)
Is that one of the places where they pronounce it “EYE-TALION” food? I’ll bet they have good garlic bread.