chickee talk by Tina Marie Osceola Naples. Pizza. Family.


For my family and most who call themselves “regulars,” Luigi’s is more than a place to eat, it’s a touchstone and reminder that although there is little familiar in Naples any longer, Luigi’s is a reminder of home…of family.

Living in Naples means so many different things to so many different people. There is one place, however, where people can go and regardless of their differences, be in agreement on one thing…
no, not politics… not the Dolphins or the Buccaneers… but PIZZA! Located in a very unassuming strip mall along East Tamiami Trail, a small pizza shop called Luigi’s has brought people together for 40 years! Luigi’s just won the Naples Daily News March Madness Best Pizza Challenge and every vote was well deserved!

The formalities out of the way, I want to tell you what Luigi’s means to me and my family. Growing up as a young girl, my meals were mostly shared at my dad’s family Seminole Village and consisted of tons of yummy foods but never pizza. My mom’s side of the family had a much different palate and given their New York City roots, they still ate wonderful food, but my Grandmother was a working professional and we didn’t go over there much. My Grandpa, Richie Yannaco, was a big teddy bear of a man, and we saw him almost every day of the week before or after school. He started a tradition once we started school by taking us out to eat on the first and last days of the school year. My Grandpa had taken a risk on a business adventure with his good friends Walter Sorokoty and John Paulich, local attorneys. They built Trail Plaza, the unassuming strip mall where Luigi’s calls home. It was there where my lifelong love for pizza started! My last day of second grade my Grandpa took my brother and I to Neapolitan Pizza, located where Luigi’s is now. The kitchen was along the right and the tables lined up against the left and the furnishings were dark, but what I remember the most was that aroma of garlic and pizza dough!

I was excited to try something new but never knew what a role that location would play in my life. You see, after that first bite, I was hooked. How could something so simple be so darn good?! Over the years Neapolitan Pizza changed owners and the layout of the restaurant changed but my obsession only grew. By the time high school came around, it was called Tower of Pizza and one of my high school crushes worked there making pizzas! I’m not sure if I liked him for being Joe or if it was the fact he knew how to make pizza! One day the Tower of Pizza’s sign came down and Luigi’s sign went up. A beautiful friend of my aunt, Kelly O’Green, had married a handsome Italian guy, Carlo Iantosca, whose family had been in the business for a long time in Naples. It was then that I discovered my favorite pizza… ever! Throughout the late 80’s I would visit when I was home from college and until my Grandpa passed, we’d meet there “for a pizza pie.” The mid 90’s I started working at the Sheriff ’s Office and Luigi’s was our spot for lunch and where I would take my kids for pizza after work. While pregnant with my son, I ate there almost everyday. My Grandpa passed while I was in college but I tried to continue the tradition of taking my own kids to Luigi’s on their first and last days of school. Now, we take my grandkids there and since I work out of town now, you will find my parents there several times a week. The tables are filled with the “locals” year-round. It is a place where you can still run into folks we grew up with.

Kelly and Carlo are still there and much like how I grew up there, so has their family. Their kids grew up with Luigi’s as their second home and now their grandchildren can say the same. On any given night you may see their daughter-in-law, Charlene, waiting on tables or their grandson Brayden, making salads and subs.

1 reply
  1. Wilma Jones
    Wilma Jones says:

    My husband and I have gone to Luigi’s as long as I can remember. We went every Friday night when I was working and we even celebrated our 25th anniversary there! Kelly had a red checkered tablecloth on a table for our special evening. We will be celebrating our 60th anniversary soon and will hopefully spend that evening there too!
    A special place indeed!


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