Napolese in Indianapolis: a brief review
The wife and I checked out Napolese last night.
First, rather than bread, they provide a dish of olives for the table. This is sensible for the restaurant because they're cheaper than bread, store forever, and there's no labor cost at all other than scooping them into the dish. It's excellent for the (olive-loving) consumer because it's something different.
We ordered the ricotta / pancetta spread as an appetizer. The spread was tasty enough, but heavier than expected - I think a dash of lemon (or a bit less pancetta and pepper) could make the dish a lot better. The ricotta was almost totally lost in the spread. That said, it may have been the case that I was simply expecting a bowl of ricotta with a bit of stuff mixed in when the dish is more of a bowl of stuff with some ricotta mixed in. The spread comes with a bowl of bread that has been grilled. The bread was good, but it was cut into long, thin strips that made it difficult to put the spread on - it needed to be cut into thick strips or wedges instead.
For dinner, we each ordered a pizza (and each took half a pizza home, so dinner tonight is covered). The wife ordered the Meridian Kessler (Italian sausage, mushroom, aged provolone) and like it a lot. The sausage was good & spicy, although perhaps nothing special. I ordered the BLT (bacon, caramelized leeks, taleggio). The bacon was almost (but not quite) burnt, which if done on purpose was great but I'm not sure if it was intentional. The leeks were excellent and gave an oniony flavor without overpowering the pizza as onions can do.
The sauce had a solid tomato flavor and wasn't too sweet. It was, however, a surprisingly bright red. The crust under the pizza was fairly forgettable - it was thin but not crisp - but the edge was good and crispy and made an excellent vehicle for scooping up the remaining ricotta spread. For those of you who are concerned about such things, this is knife & fork pizza, at least until you get close to the crust.
To drink, the wife had an amaretto cremosa that was well made and very good. I had an Oberon. (Neither of us is a huge wine drinker - given the option, I almost always get beer instead. The wine list looked good, to me, but I wouldn't take my word for it, heh.)
Overall: I liked Napolese, but it doesn't compare to Pizzology. People in Indy will argue about where the best non-gourmet pizza can be found (for me, Some Guys > Jockamo's > Bazbeaux, but I'll gladly go to Maria's as it reminds me of my favorite pizza back in Evansville), and if I want a "regular" pizza I'd happily go to any of those places. But if I'm in the mood for more than pepperoni and sausage on my pie, I would always drive the extra distance for Pizzology over Napolese.
I have not been to it yet - but I read on another blog that the place is VERY noisy and almost impossible to try to have any conversation in. Was this your experience?
There also seem to be varying opinions about the pizza (crusts) falling short of true Neapolitan style?
Ahh, I should have mentioned that. The restaurant was quite loud, especially given that it was over half empty (we got there a bit after 9:00 PM). I think it'd be okay if you had a group going out for pizza and some beer/vino, but it's not exactly suitable for a date - unless you sit outside, I suppose.
As for the crust, it was a pleasant rustic shape and the outer crust had good flavor and was crisp. The crust under the toppings, however, couldn't hold up and the pizza was, for lack of a better term, floppy. You're not going to eat it with your hands, to be sure. As people's preferences on crust vary widely I'll say simply that the crust was fine, all things considered, but that it wasn't anything special to me.
I do enjoy Turoni's - I grew up 2 blocks from the Main St location and I never say no to walking over there for dinner when I'm back in town. The beer is great, too.
Personally, however, I really enjoy Roca Bar's original location over on south Kentucky. It's not gourmet in any sense of the word, but it's old-school as heck and I love it. Their big salad with all the pepperoni/etc is delicious. Maria's in Fountain Square is almost identical to Roca Bar, right down to the ridiculous time it takes for the food to come out, and I'm okay with that. :D
Deerhead (3 blocks from my rents' house in Evansville) is another decent pizza place, but I usually end up geting a strom there. I haven't found a decent strom in Indy, which is heartbreaking after moving from Bloomington where there are a ton of good stroms.