Rushford, Minnesota – population 807 – is home to a small Italian restaurant named Il Luigi. And (at the very least) one of it’s few citizens is making some fantastic food!
First of all, it seems almost incredible that a town of that size houses even a single restaurant. Housed in a brick building on the corner of Mill St and Jesse St, sits a modest Italian influenced restaurant. But interestingly enough, I’m not going to be talking about that. A gem tucked within a gem lies a brilliant chef dedicated to bringing great authentic food to anyone who looks hard enough.
Upon request the owner, Luis Jara, will craft a cuisine oriented meal. You can choose the intensity of this experience opting for more courses, paired wines and other special requests. Thanks to my uncle, I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a small private dining event featuring Ecuadorian cuisine at Il Luigi. I attempted to keep the meal authentic by ordering an Argentinian wine, Roberto Mondovia’s cabernet. Shortly after receiving our wine the meal began with a fish and shrimp ceviche. Bright tones of lemon and orange permeated the palate while delicate flavors of cilantro, red onion and briny seafood created a magnificent presentation of flavors. Similarly, each bite, more refreshing than the last, and savored each time. The next course came swiftly after.
Chef Jara presented us with llapingachos; a small plate with a fried potato and cheese cake, pulled pork, queso fresco and three greens sauce – something quite similar to a green goddess dressing. As I tasted this dish I was greeted with a wonderful concert of flavors. The fattiness of the pork and cheese was contrasted perfectly by a hint of lime and red onions. Tones of cilantro and avocado provided rich and exciting layers of depth at every mouthful.
The next course that followed was a churrasco. This general term applies to grilled meat from Central and South America. We were presented a plate of flat iron steak, fried plantains and beans and rice. Most noteworthy, the meat was seasoned perfectly reflecting simple but amazing flavors of garlic and black pepper. Unfortunately, even for flat iron steak it was surprisingly tough. The plantains were crispy and delicious but would have benefited from some more seasoning to stand up against the starch. Even so, the beans and rice made the dish; tenderly cooked and bursting with flavor they were the redeeming quality of the dish.
After many healthy courses I was feeling quite satiated. As a result, I was pleasantly relieved as Chef Jara brought us the final course. As a tall shot glass was placed in front of me aromas of cinnamon, apples and lemon wafted through the air. The last course was Canelazo, a warm spiced beverage home to Ecuador. It was astounding; slightly sweet, warm and highly palatable, this drink was a fantastic way to close out the meal. Gentle notes of cinnamon and lemon brushed against our palate leaving me feeling refreshed after a heavy meal.
In short, if you happen to be in the Mid-West, take a moment to visit Chef Jara at Il Luigi. Whether you eat the traditional Italian fare or request special meal of your own, I can promise, you won’t be disappointed.
100 W Jessie St,
Rushford, MN 55971
Atmosphere: A small family style Italian restaurant bringing a plethora of surprises and good eats.
Sound Level: Quiet
Recommended Choices: Chef tasting menu (You will need to call ahead)
Drink’s, Wine and Cocktails: Full service bar, decent wine list and soft drinks.
Price $$ (Moderate)
Open: Sunday to Thursday from 11a-10p; Friday and Saturday 11a-11p
What the stars represent: ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor, fair or satisfactory. One star, good. Two stars, very good. Three stars, excellent. Four stars, extraordinary.