About Lodovik "Luigi" Tetaj & Little Italy

Lodovik "Luigi" Tetaj traveled for three long days, mostly under the cover of darkness, to flee from communist Albania in 1989.


He had no food and only melting mountain snow for water, secreting himself from the sun to avoid soldiers' patrols.


He knew if he was apprehended that capture was the best option, death a true possibility.


Tetaj, 39, who now makes his home in Abilene, serves up pasta and fresh bread at his restaurant Little Italy, 1417 S. Danville Drive. His home country is across the Adriatic Sea from Italy -- a great influence on his people's cuisine, he said.


Made by hand


Tetaj said he has been cooking for almost 15 years. Little Italy makes a full menu of mostly Italian favorites, such as lasagna, fettucini Alfredo and chicken parmigiana. He and his wife and staff make almost everything "except the ice" he quipped.


"We do a lot of pasta in Albania," Tetaj said. "Italy is our first neighbor, you see. It's not even 40 miles across the Adriatic Sea.


He got the moniker "Luigi" from a customer's child in his Lubbock restaurant -- and yes, it comes from Luigi, the slightly less-famous Mario brother from the Nintendo video games.


"He said he was Mario, and I'm Luigi,"; Tetaj said.

The nickname has stuck, and now staff and customers call him "Luigi" regularly.

Albana Tetaj said the couple tries to keep all of their ingredients of the highest quality.


"We never go for cheap food," she said. "You don't make too much profit because it costs more to make." But generous portion sizes and overall quality keep people coming back, she said.


Customers tell general manager Tom Koske that they come in because of positive word-of-mouth.


"We don't do much advertising," he said. "… It's meant to be a kind of an escape. Every night, we have people here celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. And we have people who just want to get away from the hustle and bustle."


Little Italy offers booths with privacy screens for favored dinner diners, including the now famous "No. 63," a prime spot for those planning to propose.

"Since we opened this place, no one has said no in No. 63," Albana said.

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