On the Doorstep

It was a crisp winter night when a friend of mine recommended that I stop in West Lebanon for dinner, and I’m not in the habit of turning down friendly advice. Not on Wednesdays anyway. Fortunately West Lebanon did not lack for dinner options, and my usual sources quickly led me to Lui Lui.

Lui seems like the name of a fun Italian uncle who would show up and cook a feast like you read about in fairy tales and blog posts. Tack on another Lui and suddenly you have double the feasting, and double the fun uncles apparently. Don’t worry, I verified the math on that.

Needless to say I didn’t waste any time commanding my GPS to work its magic and outline the map to glorious cuisine. I arrived to the sight of a beautiful brick building with character and style that could only be found on the border of NH and VT.

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A snowy woodshed was affixed to the side of the building and a cart of freshly chopped wood sat by the door, which validated the promise of wood fired pizza illuminated by the sign above the restaurant. As I approached I was greeted by an entryway lined with brick pillars and cheery little trees strung with lights that were warm and inviting.

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The atmosphere inside further exceeded expectations with graceful wooden posts aligned in neat rows throughout the tables, and stout wrought iron decorations that hung from the arched ceiling. Various tiers of seating provided a sense of spacious depth while offering views of the wood fire ovens that lined the back wall.

I claimed a spot at the bar and began pondering my favorite types of “flight.” Certainly near the top of the list would be a flight to the Caribbean or other comparable tropical location, as well as flight from danger which is probably essential to my well-being. But the sociable bartender was quick to remind me that my favorite flight is a flight of beer. He handed me a listing of great brews and told me I could pick five three ounce tasters.

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Inundated with quality breweries from New England, five choices suddenly felt like ten too few. And it turns out the food menu offered a similar degree of mouth-watering variety.

Some sort of magnetic force pulled my eyes directly to the crispy risotto balls in the appetizer section. Risotto is the pinnacle of culinary art, and Lui Lui found a way to make it even more delicious by adding mozzarella, parmesan, and fresh herbs, before scooping it into flavorful spheres of joy, frying it, and serving it with a fragrant basil aioli dipping sauce.

With crispy cheesy risotto to chew on and a flight of beers to wash it down, my meal was already off to a fantastic start. And yet, greatness was still to come as I placed an order for one of my favorite meals: buffalo chicken pizza.

When it arrived I could already smell the tang of the spicy chicken and the undertones of savory mozzarella before I even took the first bite. I was also excited to find an abundance of grilled tomatoes, diced scallions, crumbled gorgonzola cheese, and drizzled diavolo sauce for a unique take on an old classic. And the changes were well received as each mouthful resulted in various combinations of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors bound by a perfectly cooked wood fired pizza crust.

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With my hunger pains thoroughly extinguished, I was happy to spend the rest of my time chatting with the friendly bartenders and gearing up for my journey.

Check out Lui Lui at 8 Glen Road in West Lebanon. And if you’re worried about tripping over the border and accidentally falling into Vermont, you can also safely visit Lui Lui at their other location in Nashua.

As always, please email eatdrinkplay@stayworkplay.org to share your ideas of any New Hampshire related food/drink/venue/organization that you think should be featured in our “Eat Drink Play” blog posts.

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