Luigi’s Famiglia Cucina, Carmel

Luigi’s Famiglia Cucina is owned by, from the left, Simon, Luigi and Anton Rukaj. Neal Rentz photo.

The Italian phrase famiglia cucina translated into English is family kitchen.

Luigi’s Famiglia Cucina in Carmel, fittingly, is a family owned and operated business.

The restaurant, which opened in July of 2016, is owned by Luigi Rukaj and his sons, Anton and Simon.

Luigi’s is the first business the family has owned, but Luigi Rukaj has had several years of experience in the restaurant industry, he said last week. He began his career in Rome in 1978, working for the family restaurant that invented fettuccini alfredo.

Luigi Rukaj moved to the United States in 1980 for “a better life,” he said.

“I’ve had other businesses, but this is a case where this is the first family business,” Anton said. Two concepts of the American Dream are “owning a house and the second one is being able to work for yourself,” he said. “We’ve been able to employ our family and people within the community. It’s nice to see how things progressed in the short time that we’ve been here.”

The specialty of the restaurant is its wood fired oven, which is used to prepare pizzas and other dishes. Preparing pizzas in a wood fired oven give the pizza characteristics that are different from the pies made in gas or other types of ovens, Anton said. The crust from a wood fired oven is thinner and the cheese melts in a different way, he said.

“It’s a different to the finished product,” he said. The family uses dry oak and when possible, cherry wood, Anton said. The wood taste, “in our opinion the best taste that could be made for pizza,” he said.

The restaurant’s wood fired oven can heat up to 800 degrees, Anton said. “It’s fun to stay in the front if you enjoy the heat like I do,” he said, adding it takes only about a couple of minutes to cook a pizza in his restaurant’s wood fired oven, half the time it takes to bake a pizza in a gas fired oven. The traditional cheese pie is the restaurant’s customer favorite, he said.

Aside from the pizzas the extensive menu includes a half-dozen or more soups, appetizers and a wide selection of entrees.  Anton said, “We try to see ourselves more as a better dining restaurant,” he said.

Calamari is the most popular appetizer, Anton said. Another popular starter, which is not always on the menu, is the sautéed octopus, he noted.

Several pastas are available, with penne a la vodka being the best seller, Anton said.

The restaurant also specializes in seafood, with Zuppe Di Peshe, which includes shrimp, scallops, calamari, mussels and clams over linguini with marinara or fra diavolo sauce, being a particular specialty, Anton said.

Luigi said his customers come “from all over” both locally and from Connecticut.

Anton said his family works to support the local community. “Every day someone comes knocking to try to get us involved with some sort of event or donation. We try to do whatever we can,” he said.

Some of the keys to the success of the restaurant is its philosophy is “doing the right thing and be honest with people,” Luigi said. “I’m old fashioned. I always say the customer is always right.”

Luigi’s Famiglia Cucina is located at 62 Gleneida Ave. in Carmel. For more information call
845-225-4000 or visit
https://www.luigisofcarmel.com/. The restaurant is also on Facebook and Twitter.

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