For 27 years, Lui Lui in West Lebanon, N.H., has been serving up Italian food to Upper Valley families.
By Emma Wunsch
Nestled in the corner of the Powerhouse Mall in West Lebanon, N.H., is Lui Lui, one of the Upper Valley’s most popular family restaurants. A community mainstay for 27 years, locals who grew up eating Lui Lui’s spaghetti and meatballs in the 1990s are bringing their own kids to eat there today,
The Power of Pizza
Founder Eric Roberts grew up in Framingham, Mass. He was one of five kids, so his family did not eat out often. But Sundays were pizza nights which, in the Roberts house, were serious. Roberts’s dad drove to the next town because he thought the pizza there was better than all of the other pizza places in town. Years later, Roberts can “still remember the smell of the pizzeria when we’d walk inside. The owner holding a pizza peel, wearing a short sleeved white shirt and all the steam inside the place fogging up the windows.” His dad always bought an extra pie so there would be more than enough for their large family.
Back home, Roberts’s mom put pans inside the oven and turned it on so the pies would stay warm. The importance of this special family night — along with a trip to Italy in the early 1990s — planted the seed of opening a family friendly restaurant. Roberts loved the food he ate in Italy (“flavorful fresh pasta, mouthwatering desserts, and the delicious bread”) and knew he wasn’t alone in his love of Italian food. “Italian food offers so many options, a lot of it can be eaten with your hands and it’s the perfect blend of comfort food and affordability,” he says.
Part of the Community
Roberts, who now lives in Bedford, N.H., and Grantham, N.H., feels grateful to have remained in the same location for nearly three decades. (The second Lui Lui in Nashua has been open for 22 years.) Much of the success of Lui Lui is having great managers and the best team of men and women who tend bar, serve, and cook. There are around 80 team members in West Lebanon — some of whom have worked there for more than 20 years!
While Lui Lui has watched a lot of changes in the Upper Valley, the friendliness of the community has stayed the same. For Roberts and his team, a major part of being connected to the community is volunteering. Every July, Lui Lui staff volunteer to feed almost 1,400 riders, runners and golfers at The Prouty, a fundraiser that benefits the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. The annual event “epitomizes the spirit of our hospitality for such a worthy cause,” says Roberts.
Even the pickiest of the picky eaters can find something they like on Lui Lui’s wide-ranging menu. There are soups, salads, many different pizzas, a variety of entrees, delicious desserts, and a kids menu for those 12 and under. Most kids love the macaroni and cheese and homemade meatballs and pasta. As Manager Sean Knight says, “What child doesn’t love meatballs?” Even “tomato resistant” kids like the Lui Lui marinara because it’s made in house with only a few ingredients.
Dining with kids, especially young ones, can be challenging. But the variety of food choices, the basket of rolls with dipping oil, and taking the kids over to watch the pizza cooks working at the brick oven makes dining at Lui Lui fun for the whole family. The team at Lui Lui prides itself catering to kids with allergies or food sensitivities. Roberts encourages parents to speak to a manager who will be “more than happy to explain what we can do to have the kids enjoy what they are eating.”
The next time you’re out shopping in West Lebanon and thinking about going home to make dinner, consider treating yourself and your family to a delicious, affordable and fun meal at Lui Lui. Buon appetito!