Louis Original is a place you either love or can’t imagine loving. It’s old-school Italian-American, famous for bounteous plates of cooked-soft spaghetti noodles topped with thick red sauce and salty pre-grated Parmesan cheese. The meaty sauce is spiced with a Greek twist — like so many “Italian” restaurants in the south, Louis was started by a Greek family — and reflects the hybrid cuisine of Old World cooks coming to America much more than it is an expression of actual Old World tradition.
While spaghetti is the signature dish, the menu offers a broad array of such familiar red-sauced standards as lasagna, manicotti, Parmigianas, and ravioli. Expect all pasta to be cooked beyond al dente.
Louis is the sort of energetic restaurant that has a menu designed to please all appetites. Beyond Italian fare, its kitchen offers steaks, pork chops, hot sandwiches, and “genuine fresh calf’s liver.” While French fries are ho-hum, flaky onion rings are a must.
Meals come with side dishes that are every bit as démodé as the spaghetti: no-surprises iceberg lettuce salad with herbed vinaigrette, and big, puffy lengths of harmless garlic bread.
Open since 1958, Louis is an airy space with Mediterranean decor, an efficient staff of restaurant pros, and a very loyal clientele. No, it’s not for everyone, certainly not for connoisseurs seeking authentic Italian fare or cutting-edge cuisine. But for those of us who value old-fashioned, new-world, hyphenated-American cooking, it’s a treasure.