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Luigi's Italian Kitchen, 1215 Augusta Street: mid-1980s   49 comments

Posted at 12:39 am in Uncategorized

I've known about three Luigi's italian restaurants. The one in Fayetteville NC was great and one of my lunch and pizza hangouts -- it also made the national news due to a horrible tragedy early in the Clinton era. I tried the one in Broad Street in Augusta a few times while I was working there and was never impressed. This one, in Triangle City, was completely off my radar, and I learned about it only when I started looking through old phone books (this ad is from 1970). I'm not sure why that was as I've always loved spaghetti, and got into other Italian food, starting with pizza and lasagna in the 70s. If I had to guess, I'd say it was because it was all the way across town from our area and off my parents' radar during the years before I was driving and that after I started driving, I was, in those years, very satisfied with Pizza Hut pizza, and usually too broke to eat out anyway.

Commenter Dennis wrote:

Is Luigi's before your time?

Was a wonderful Italian place, great pizza, in an old white house
right in the middle of Triangle City.

It's now West Columbia Pawn & Loan, 1215 Augusta Rd, West Columbia.
Building has hardly changed at all on the outside.

No idea what year it closed. It was a hot spot for Carolina students
in the 70s.

The place was easy to find, though a bit hard to get to what with medians and all the odd cross streets in Triangle City. Interestingly, as I was taking these shots, a lady in a car with a sleeping kid in a car-seat pulled into the lot and basically panhandled me. She had some sob story about how she had locked herself out of the house, didn't have any money and wouldn't be able to get back in until 8pm and she was running out of gas and needed to keep the AC running for the kid. I have no idea if it was true, but the sleeping kid did it for me and I gave her some cash. This is the second time I've been "out-of-gas" panhandled taking these pictures. I don't know if I just naturally look like an easy mark, or if something about a guy out snapping pictures in the heat suggests a certain lack of common sense.

UPDATE 23 September 2009: Updated the closing date to "mid-1980s" based on commenter fw's story.

Written by ted on July 13th, 2009

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49 Responses to 'Luigi's Italian Kitchen, 1215 Augusta Street: mid-1980s'

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  1. This was delicious Italain food. Remember the sign on the front door? "No Plastics"!
    The tables had the Chianti bottles with candles in them.

    Midnight Rambler

    13 Jul 09 at 7:04 am

  2. Oops, the phonebook picture wasn't displaying -- fixed!


    16 Jul 09 at 11:24 pm

  3. I remember Luigi's from “back in the day” and before the building was painted white. (t used to be red brick.) It was one of the first Italian places I ever tried when I got to USC back in the 1970's. They had absolutely the best Italian food I've ever tasted! There was something about the sauce. And they served HUGE portions! I remember the red-checkered tablecloths (vinyl I think) and a Chianti bottle candle holder on each table covered with multi-colored wax from all the candles that had burnt in it. If I recall correctly there were other bottles hanging from the ceiling and blacklight posters on the walls (as was the style back then). The last time I ate there was sometime in the 80's – late 80's I think. Then one day I rode by and it was closed.


    16 Sep 09 at 9:51 pm

  4. Indeed Luigi's served huge portions. My favorite was his eggplant parmesan, and I loved the salads with the Italian dressing. The garlic bread was good, too.

    Luigi's wife worked in the kitchen and would hand the pasta out to Luigi who would then ladle on the the sauce. My wife and I went there on our first date on September 14, 1982. We were married three years later to the day. After we had been dating a while and I continued to take her to Luigis, my wife finally told me that she really did not like Luigi's sauce. Still we were sentimental about the place and would continue to go. She's order the spaghetti and ask the waiter to hold the sauce. The waiter would look at her as if she had lost her mind -- after all who would pay $1.95 for a plate of spaghetti noodles! The restaurant was closed by the time our first wedding anniversary came around. The first anniversary is traditionally the "paper" anniversary. I was thinking of something paper that I could give my wife. I called Luigi at his home and explained the situation and asked if he might have an old menu or something paper from the restaurant that I might have. He was delighted and thought my idea was wonderful. I went to his house and he gave me not only a copy of a menu, but also a copy of the old Columbia Record that featured a review of his restaurant (a copy in a plastic cover hung near the cash register) and a paper place mat. It was probably the only creative present I've ever given. Years later when I read in the paper that he had died, I wrote Mrs. Cardamone and told her about how fond we were of her husband and how he had helped me with a present for our first wedding anniversary. I'll always remember Luigi's.


    23 Sep 09 at 3:31 pm

  5. Great story fw!

    Based on what you say, I calculate the place must have closed in 85 or 86 then..

    I'll update the post title to that date.


    23 Sep 09 at 3:58 pm



    24 Oct 09 at 8:42 am

  7. Great story FW! I love this site for stuff like that.

    My parents used to take me to Luigi's ... I was only a kid of 7 or 8 but I remember the place being EPIC. The food was awesome and the ambiance was mesmerizing for a little kid... The dimly lit dining room, vinyl checked table cloths, old wine bottles candle holders covered with decades of dripped wax, freaky black light posters, beer signs, and Papa Luigi coming out and talking to everybody. It was so cool.

    It was my mom and dad's favorite place for years. They were so bummed when it closed.

    We've gotta get that sauce recipe!


    24 Oct 09 at 10:20 pm

  8. Oh I remember "Luigi's" well !! While at USC my roomie and I would head out there (Triangle City, didn't know it was called that) once a week. We would order the child's plate of spagetti and still the portion was huge. The routine was the same, one of the boys would hand the plate to Luigi and only he would apply the sauce. Hey webmaster, what about Labrascas Pizza, still around ?


    9 Dec 09 at 3:06 pm

  9. Yep, Labrasca's is still there!


    9 Dec 09 at 4:22 pm

  10. Luigi's was my favorite Italian restaurant to go to when I was a kid. Luigi's tomato sauce was this dark burgundy color and it was incredible.

    I was only about 13 or 14 or so when Luigi's closed, and I actually asked him to sign a menu for me and he got a big kick out of that.

    I've yet to find lasagne as good as Luigi Cardamone's, even all these years later.


    13 Dec 09 at 8:02 pm

  11. Paul, Patrick - You guys are dead on with your memories of Luigi and his terrific food. The child's plate essentially served as the student special. Salad, bread and pasta for about $2.50. And yes that dark red-brown sauce that often had whole bay leaves or short stems in it! Even when his sons began to work the room, only Luigi could ladle on the sauce.

    I do recall that for at least 24 hours following dining at Luigi's your breath (and sometimes body) would wreak of garlic. I recall being at a church service after a Saturday night meal at Luigi's, and the people sitting in front of me asking me whether I had eaten at Luigis recently.


    5 Jan 10 at 5:34 pm

  12. This placed rocked. I loved it when it when I was a kid. I always loved the black light posters. The Spag was the best. It was so earthy tasting. Huge mounds of food. Too bad it's still not open.


    22 Mar 10 at 12:20 am

  13. Site is re-opened as another Pawn Shop.


    21 May 10 at 2:04 pm

  14. Oh, what memories from the 1960's - 1970's ... great black lights, travel posters, wilted salads, cheesy pizza, great gamecock basketball teams to celebrate. I told my fiance I was leaving law school to go to seminary over a red and white checkered Luigi's tablecloth.


    14 Aug 10 at 7:05 pm

  15. WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. - Regina Irene (Piermarini) Cardamone, 84, of West Columbia, formerly of Leominster, Mass., died Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008.
    Mrs. Cardamone was born on Dec. 21, 1923, in Leominster, the daughter of the late Angelo and Nicolina Piermarini.
    She was co-owner with her husband, Luigi, of Luigi's Italian Kitchen in West Columbia from 1962 to 1985. She was recognized for her famous Italian salad dressing and was featured in several newspaper and magazine articles, and also for her famous lasagna and garlic bread, which was enjoyed by many in the Columbia area, including past governors, sports celebrities, and several senators and congressmen.
    Her warm heart and exceptional cooking abilities will be greatly missed.

    D Piermarini

    6 Jan 11 at 6:04 pm

  16. Well, that is a shame.


    7 Jan 11 at 1:15 am

  17. thank you Mama Piermarini for some great pasta meals !


    14 Jan 11 at 7:25 pm

  18. Went to Luigi's as a student '74-'78. We would have a contest to see who could finish the regular spaghetti w/salad and bread. I remember laying down in the parking lot with belt undone before getting in the car. Good times!

    scott z

    23 Feb 11 at 9:02 pm

  19. Anyone have any luck finding that sauce recipe by any chance? I checked the State online archives to no avail, but perhaps it is because they only go back to 1987.


    2 Mar 11 at 12:37 pm

  20. We need that recipe! Someone find it. It might have been in the State Record and I can't remember the date it the Record was stppoed publishing.


    7 Mar 11 at 10:21 am

  21. I found my copy of Luigi's spaghetti sauce that was written in The State Newspaper , probably 30 years ago or more.
    I found it in the archives at Richland Public Library where it was on microfilm. E-mail me if you want this copy.


    8 Mar 11 at 11:32 am

  22. I thought the waiter was gorgeous, and I absolutely loved all the Navy posters. I think it may be why I later joined up. LOL
    We ALWAYS had leftovers to take home. They even had on the take home bag a picture of a dog (doggie bag). Their spaghetti was fantastic, the salad was served warm which made it much better, the blacklight posters were cool, and I even have a chiani bottle just like what they had so I can plop a candle in it for a romantic evening. I really miss this place. Many thanks to D Piermarini and others for the info.

    Miz T

    13 Aug 11 at 5:58 am

  23. Does anyone have the recipe for their salad dressing?

    Miz T

    18 Aug 11 at 7:21 am

  24. luigis was for sure the best . I know they also posted the salad recipe in the paper . But I havn't found it yet .. As a kid I have many found memories of me beging on friday night to go there..... I got my wish on my birthday 25 years ago with a special gift to me from What I thought then and still today MR luigi Himself! if anyone can find the salad recipe . I would love to have it .. I know I can't make it the same But it will bring back great memories


    7 Dec 11 at 6:11 pm

  25. I just found this site. wow. I LOVED luigi's. I can still smell it if i think about it. I went there a lot as a kid. Luigi would give me and my brother chianti bottles and we would put candles in them and try to get them to have wax run all down them like the ones at the restaurant. before they closed luigi gave my dad the sauce recipie. he made it a few times. man i miss that place. the posters. the music. how dark it was. i always wondered how horrified we would be if we ever saw the place with all the lights on. didnt they live upstairs?


    3 Feb 12 at 4:55 pm

  26. My first wife and I double dated there with another Myrtle Beach friend. I can truly say that I was never hungry after leaving there.... and garlic breath... whooo!. The Cardamone family knew how to cook, and more than that, they knew how to treat people!

    By the way... anyone that comes up with the salad dressing recipe and gives me a copy, I will be deeply indebted!

    Tom Beckham - Pawleys Island

    Tom Beckham

    4 Mar 12 at 2:03 pm

  27. My new Email address.....

    I am still looking for Luigi's recipes. I have the spaghetti sauce recipe that Judy sent me (Thanks again Judy) but, would like to have other recipes.

    Tom Beckham

    Tom Beckham

    7 May 13 at 7:56 am

  28. My new Email address.....

    I am still looking for Luigi's recipes. I have the spaghetti sauce recipe that Judy sent me (Thanks again Judy) but, would like to have other recipes.

    Tom Beckham

    Tom Beckham

    7 May 13 at 7:56 am

  29. I attended school with son's John & Louie. As a teenager my girlfriend & I ate there @ least once or twice a week. One Christmas Luigi gifted us a large bottle of Chianti with a neck about 2 feet long. I loved the basket woven Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and holding candles on all the tables. The family as most know lived upstaird over the restaurant. I loved the stringer's of bare bulb lights that went from the front door out over the parking lot. The portions were huge and loved their red sauce for 'dippin' the garlic bread into while waiting on our dinners. Sweet man who was very proud of his heritage, his food, family AND his time in our Armed Services / Army.

    Timothy Lee Cromer

    14 Jun 13 at 1:56 pm

  30. When I was at Carolina in the 70s I was 6'3" and weighed 150 pounds and could finish a plate of Luigi's spaghetti. I had the infamous hollow legs. I wish I had some right now but I'd probably need a doggie bag.

    John Grant

    16 Oct 13 at 8:19 am

  31. @John - I know the feeling. Back in the day I could wolf down a large pizza and a pitcher of beer and not gain an ounce!!! Those days are long gone!!


    16 Oct 13 at 10:39 pm

  32. I frequented Luigi's from 1978-80 while at USC. The spaghetti and lasagna were especially great and nearly impossible to finish.

    John M

    23 Oct 13 at 3:33 pm

  33. You guys who purchased the regular dinner plate must have been loaded with dough. Those of us on a limited budget would buy the child's plate (complimented by the small salad and bread), and still walk away with our stomachs ready to explode. As I noted in an earlier post, sometimes even a day later, people would know you had eaten at Luigi's because you would wreak of garlic. I'll bet none of you ever saw anybody but Luigi ladle the sauce over the plate of spaghetti.


    12 Nov 13 at 5:04 pm

  34. I like the 1970 ad where it says "The Home of the Italian Food, Cooked by Italians"... WELL, isn't that nice! Better than Italian food cooked by Germans, Chinese, Ronald McDonald or someone else OTHER THAN ITALIANS. I guess that "resassured" us West Columbia-zians that weren't too sure about just whom cooked it.


    12 Nov 13 at 6:10 pm

  35. so does that mean that if you aren't "Italian", you are NOT allowed to cook or make anything "ITALIAN"??? Inquirin' minds wanna know..


    12 Nov 13 at 6:12 pm

  36. I just found this conversation! I loved Luigi's restaurant! The sauce, the salad dressing, the candles, the posters, the portions! Oh, it was all good! Nothing, to this day, comes close! Would love a copy of the review from The Columbia Record! FW replied saying he had a copy he received from Mr. Cardamone himself! Fabulous! FW, if you're out there, message me! I'd love to have a copy!


    21 Jan 14 at 7:46 pm

  37. My friends and, I as USC students, would get smoked up and go to this place at least once a week in the early 70s. Oh the food was so good! The marinated salads, the huge platter of spaghetti, the boys always with a moustache and white apron serving food. Luigi, ONLY, putting the sauce on your food. The chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling, black light posters lit by black lights. Very basic, very wonderful, very good, very magical. One of my best memories back in those wonderful days when things changed for the better and before they went back to as it was and less wonderful...


    21 Mar 14 at 8:58 pm

  38. There was and is ONE LUIGI'S! I don't know anything about the one in Fayetteville, NC but this was a family owned restaurant with only one location in South Carolina!

    Pat Lewis

    18 Sep 14 at 2:28 pm

  39. My husband and I had many wonderful meals there. Sons Rick and Randy waited on tables for a few year while in high school. The restaurant closed when the Cardamons gave son a going away party . Every time I pass that building I think of Luigi and Genia. We have not found another restaurant that compares to it. This was a special type of restaurant . When Hungary people would come to his back door he would feed them at no charge. Sure hate that both are now gone.

    Marilyn Grace

    5 May 17 at 8:41 pm

  40. My dad fought in WW2 in Italy under General Mark Clark. My dad was with the 10th Mountain Division Ski Troopers. He loved Italy and have fond memories of the Italians so we ate at Luigi's a lot. The one thing I remember as a child was the black and white pictures next to the cash register of Luigi in an American Army uniform. He was so proud to have served in the US Army. I also remember when the door would open to the kitchen, Luigi's wife would be cooking away making FANTASTIC Italian food. The kids would be waiting on the tables. Very happy memories. But we still have Villa Tronco. If Villa Tronco ever goes away we will have no more real Italian food.


    17 Oct 17 at 9:49 pm

  41. I was in high school and the Navy with their son( Lewis)
    BC high school and the USS Columbus CG 12 out of Norfolk VA. I wish that I could get up with him. I asked about him when I get back home. I now live in Jacksonville FL.

    Herman Thomas

    12 Apr 19 at 12:48 pm

  42. Just passed by it with a friend and we were recalling what a great place it was. Wonder if any of that family is still in this area. Went to BC High with the kids

    Joan Frierson

    29 Mar 21 at 5:42 pm

  43. I frequently ate the child's plate of pasta there, and each of the above comments echo my delightful memories of that wonderful food and ambience. Each time I indulge in Italian cuisine, I always compare the flavor to theirs. Occasionally a place will approach their level, but it's pretty rare. Gone but never to be forgotten.


    4 Aug 21 at 7:48 pm

  44. My girlfriend (now my wife) and I loved Luigi’s! Whenever I ate there my roommate would know it because he could smell the garlic coming out of my pores!

    Parker Renaud

    14 Feb 22 at 7:40 pm

  45. What a great restaurant Luigi's was back in the early 70's when I went to Carolina. I lived on Meeting St. not far from the restaurant about 2 miles away.

    There was another ice cream, milk shake place close by called something degree bebop. Great strawberry banana milkshakes.

    Gregory Lee

    3 Aug 22 at 9:04 pm

  46. Great reading these memories. I worked their off and on from ‘75 to closing in ‘85. So I was 15 when I started. My brother got me in the door. It was a lot of fun and I rarely eat traditional Italian as Luigi’s sauce was just amazing. I had dark hair and a mustache part of the time I worked there and would be mistaken as a son. The place was different with window AC units, plastic garlic bunches and red peppers hanging from the ceiling along with wax filled Chianti bottles on the tables. And Mr. Cardamon gave me a long neck Chianti bottle dated 1975. I still have it and it’s full. Although I am quite sure very spoiled. Any way great food and memories n

    Allan Kamoroff

    27 Oct 22 at 8:22 pm

  47. For anyone still hanging around and wanting Mrs. Cardamone's salad dressing recipe here it is. Pretty basic but so good. Proportions matter but she never measured any of the ingredients so you will just have to figure it out.
    Oil, vinegar, pepper, garlic salt, oregano. Then she added onions and tomato wedges.


    31 Oct 22 at 8:43 am

  48. My brother and I worked there for 3 years. It was a fantastic place with great food. The Cardamone's were like family...sure do miss them.


    22 Feb 23 at 12:09 pm

  49. I loved Luigi’s! Went there in ‘72-‘73 when I was a student at USC. We would order the “child’s plate” of spaghetti and it was all I could eat. I think it was $1.69. They used lots of oregano and one would smell like oregano for hours.
    Anyone remember a pizza place called Sparanza’s? I might have the spelling wrong. It was an old shack and I think it was on 378 between the river and I-26. Thanks!


    24 Jul 23 at 4:36 pm

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