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authentic Italian in Indianapolis

I've gone to quite a few of Indy's Italian restaurants but have also been to Italy and Indy's restaurants are really the American version of Italian. Has anyone found an Italian restaurant in Indy that really stands out? I did love Tavola Di Tosa, not really Italian, more continental, but the food had the creativity and freshness of "real" Italian food. I haven't found anything to replace it.

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  1. I don’t know why I am even trying to answer since I have never been to Italy.

    I prefer Amalfi (based on taste but not authenticity) and I know that Mama Corolla's has also been recommended on this board (but I can't speak the authenticity there either).

    For those of us who are continentally challenged maybe you could be more specific about what you are looking for that will be reminiscent of your time spent in Italy? I don't know if you are going to find the same food here as you did in Italy as most of our Italian restaurants are owned by Italian-Americans.

    5 Replies
    1. re: bonmann

      Unfortunately, Indianapolis does not support an authentic Italian restaurant. What I mean by authentic Italian would be the standards that Tavola di Tosa set back in the day. The cuisine there was based on simple preparations in the Italian manner, meaning: utilizing fresh produce, local meats, housemade cheeses and desserts, freshly made pasta (daily), and imported Italian products. These dishes were very focused (3-4 elements in each dish at most) and straight forward to emphasize the word FRESH. Beyond the everyday struggles that small independent restaurants face on a daily basis in Indy (mainly competing with the deep pocketed, highly themed corporate restaurants), it's hard for them to be ambitious in their offerings of 'authentic' italian cuisine. Americans are used to gloppy marinara and alfredo sauces which mask the pasta to an extent of non-existence. This will be the norm at most places besides the Amalfi or just a few others, maybe. Sorry, I never go out for 'Italian' food in Indy because it's just too Americanized. The best way to learn about authentic Italian is to watch Mario Batali at 10:30AM on the food network. You will then understand the difference between a more culturally and regionally specific approach to the cuisne of Italy which relies on fresh, seasonal products versus that of the over sauced pasta with the red or white sauce along with your typical boneless, skinless chicken breast that hardly has anything to do with Italy.

      1. re: napolean

        Napolean is right on for what I am looking for and what set Tavola di Tosa apart. Great decription of Italian food in Italy. So sad to hear there are no real alternatives here yet, not even close. I'll try Amalfi again. I had one good meal there and one disappointing meal. Hopefully as Indy continues to grow, it'll support more great independents. I am going to try Matteo's in Noblesville too. I heard he is from Southern Italy and the restaurant has had some good reviews. Thanks for your input!

        1. re: knielson2

          I was actually going to mention Matteo's because I've heard good things about it. It's not that you can't find good food with some Italian influences in Indy but that's what it's going to be...influenced, not authentic. Matteo's chef is from Italy but even he has to conform to Hoosier taste buds. It's just a part of reality running a restaurant in the Midwest, especially Indiana. The closest thing you are going to get to Italy and food in Indy restaurants...check out the higher end places that work with fresh ingredients, making everything from scratch. R Bistro's menu changes weekly and has a strong European influence. I would say the Veal T-bone with celery root mashed potato and raddichio sauce (I had a few weeks ago)was very Italian, especially the sauce! Plus where else can you find that? Elements would be the other place to go and Taste Cafe has a special dinner posted for later this month and had a mix of California, Spanish and Italian influences on the pre fix menu. It's hard to find and a bit more expensive...but less than a plane trip to Rome. Good luck!

          1. re: napolean

            I am not familiar with Taste Cafe, where are they and what kind of food are they serving? I have yet to go to R Bistro but its my list of places to go SOON. Thanks for your input. Its always nice to talk with other Hoosier foodies (a rare enough breed :)

            1. re: napolean

              I think you guys are right on about the state of good Italian food in Indianapolis, I was Tony's sous chef at Tavola di Tosa and I have seen what simple ingredients, prepared well mean to Italian food. There may be a new place opening soon that just may catrer to those who want the authentic stuff. Mateos was very good when I was there a few months ago, a few things though. The sauces are still infused with the rigid acidity of tomato paste not the etheral essence of a little pasta water to correct the viscosity. I have yet to eat real italian in Indy. Try Chicago.....at least for the time being.

              PS- Isn't it sad that we can't even get Italian right in Indy?

      2. Try the Capri on Keystone or Amalfi on 86th, I think both are operated by the same (genuine Italian) family. "authentic" is a difficult metric but both of these are very good and change their menus often.

        3 Replies
        1. re: gargantua

          Be careful of Capri. I had a private party there recently and though the food was excellent there were literally roaches falling off the walls into the food. When confronted, the owner initially refused to give any discount for the day, but eventually relented after a call to the health dept. and calls from a few regualrs.

          1. re: Hoosierland

            I have been enjoying the Capri proprietor's food and service for almost 25 years . I and my friends have never had an experience even close to what you are describing. Arturo always goes out of his way to make our dining experience the best it can be including service, atmosphere, and quality. I have travelled and dined in San Francisco, NYC, Firenze, Milano, Roma, Paris, and etc..... and the Capri is every bit as fine a restaurant you will find. There must be some untold circumstances that have caused this problem. I would say that Arturo does have a difficult time with verbal communication but that only makes for a better dining experience.(atmosphere).

            1. re: flemco

              I have also eaten there many times over the years and always thought highly of the place. We were shocked at the reaction from Arturo, and have unfortunately vowed never to return.

        2. Anyone tried Iaria's on College lately? It used to be the place to go for authentic Italian (southern Italian I believe) and it's been there since the 30s - at least. I remember Meatballs as big as your head, but they've changed hands (still the same family, but I've not heard much about it lately)
          The Indianapoils Southside used to be a little Italy back in the early 1900s - how in the world did just one restaurant survive?

          6 Replies
          1. re: Spoonula

            I second the recommendation for R Bistro. It was my favorite place when I lived in Indy. I also happened upon Georgio's Pizza, just off the circle shortly before I moved - they have the most "authentic" pizza - or as close as you're going to get in Indy. At the least, it is a good NY-style slice.

            1. re: brieonwheat

              Giorgio's Pizza off the circle is by far the best New York style pizza, and one of the best overall, in Indy.

              1. re: napolean

                do you remember how good pizza tasted when you were a kid? ok, a kid from the 60s.... before Dominos, Papa John's - when there were independent pizza places that made their own sauce and tossed their own dough? There is a place off of Troy and Shelby on the southside called Maria's. It's a hole in the wall but don't be put off by it. I don't think Maria still owns it - but the pizza still tastes fabulous. It is by far the best pizza I ever ate. They make their own sausage, hand tossed dough (not that pre-made stuff) and they used Muenster cheese and mozzerella - browned and gooey from the oven.
                hmmm... I might have to pick one up on the way home.

                sorry knielson2 for getting off the subject....but I had to share that one

                1. re: napolean

                  Try Stefano's the pizza place that took the place of Cio's in Fisher's (116th off 69-next to the target plaza). The best pizza in Indy and I have high standards having lived in Boston and near NYC. Cio's was good but the service wasn't Stefano has changed that and offers the same great food and decent service. Worth the drive.

                  1. re: knielson2

                    Def the best in Indy, Giorgio's was OK- too heavy and greasy though. Stefano's is fantastic- I ask for my pie a little more crispy on the bottom. I'm originally from NJ, this is the only place for real pie IMO in Indy.

                    1. re: JRN

                      Glad to hear you made it there. I hope he gets a good following and stays in business. Unfortunately I moved to lafayette so my real pizza days will be limited to road trips! :(

            2. Amalfi and Matteos are great. They're the only places we go for Italian. If you go to Matteos, ask to sit in a booth - the chairs are monstrously uncomfortable.
              If we want pizza, we go to Dom diCarlos (in Noblesville). Wonderful thin crisp crust, sauce and sausage!

              1. Try Amici's. It's located on New York steet, in the Lockerbie area. I think it's between New Jersey and College. It's been here forever. It's not much for looks - it sits in an old home and has an ecclectic atmosphere. Howerer, the food is really very good. I'm not Italian, but it is the only place that a 2nd generation Italian friend will eat in Indianapolis. I belive that it is Sicilian style. Try the puttanesca.

                1 Reply
                1. re: HMK

                  I agree with Amici's. Great little place. I sway between the Puttanesca as well and the cheese lasagna. Of course I love their sausage so I get the lasagna with BOTH meatballs (huge) and the sausage. Their marinara is a little different, it has a cinnamon aftertaste to it.