Indianapolis is quickly becoming one of the hottest food cities in America. A destination for true foodies who are interested in everything from fine dining to food trucks. This column will put the spotlight on one of these local hot spots to help get the word out and share in the love of all things food.
Review by Dustin Heller
As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of all things pasta, I’m always on the lookout for a true Italian restaurant that moves the needle. Such a place exists on the near south side of Indy that not only moves the needle, but cranks the volume up to eleven (that’s a This is Spinal Tap reference for you non-movie geeks). Iozzo’s Garden of Italy is located at 946 S. Meridian St. and is serving up some of the best Italian cuisine this side of Sicily.
Katie Harris opened this version of Iozzo’s ten years ago this August, but its history extends back much further than that. Katie is the descendant of the founders of the original Iozzo’s that ruled Indianapolis back in the 1930s. After an unfortunate turn of events involving a huge brawl and gunshots, Iozzo’s was forced to close its doors in 1941–until Katie brought it back to life some 70-plus years later.
Iozzo’s is a quaint and romantic place steeped in tradition, from the oversized black and white photos hanging on the walls to the generational recipes being used in the kitchen. The interior of the restaurant has the look and feel of Old World Italy, almost as if you’re being transported to another place once you step through the front door. The rustic red brick walls paired with the crisp white tablecloths only add to the ambiance, but the real showstopper is the outdoor patio area that comes alive when the weather allows. It is something everyone in Indy needs to experience.
As amazing as the place is, what everyone really wants to know about is the food. It’s not easy to find good Italian food in Indy, so I’m always excited to tell people about what’s going on in the kitchen at Iozzo’s. As I alluded to above, the recipes have been handed down from generation to generation and they are the foundation of what sets Iozzo’s apart from the rest. The menu is quite large with many tantalizing goodies to choose from, which is why I’m offering my four “can’t miss” items that should not be overlooked.
Lasagna Bolognese: There’s a very good chance that you’ve never had lasagna like this before, but it comes with a warning. I will recommend this dish until the cows come home, but I’m afraid that if you order it on your first visit, that you might not ever try anything else–it’s that good! They layer lasagna noodles with their blend of five cheeses and bake until just right, then comes the most important part of all: the combination of Bolognese and alfredo sauce. Kinda looks like an Italian pasta version of a black and white cookie, right? The sauces are delicious on their own, but they reach a whole new level when mixed together. You must try this dish, but try your hardest to not order it on every visit because the menu has so much to offer.
Pasta Carbonara: It would stand to reason that if a dish were good enough for the one and only Mick Jagger, then it’s got to be good enough for us Hoosiers. True story, the rock-and-roll icon paid a visit to Iozzo’s before The Stones played at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his dish of choice was pasta carbonara. It’s fresh linguine combined with tomatoes, pancetta and fresh egg cream sauce–light, fresh and packed with flavor! If you’re really feeling frisky, bronzed shrimp is the perfect complement. I doubt Mick was singing “I can’t get no satisfaction” when he left Iozzo’s that day.
Scallops and Goat Cheese: The name alone contains two of my absolute favorite things, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off a great Italian meal. The scallops are classified as “Diver” scallops because professional scuba divers harvest them by hand. They are prepared with a pesto crust and served with warm goat cheese, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and ciabatta crisps. As good as it sounds and looks (see below), it tastes even better. This is the perfect app for the table, but don’t let that deter you from ordering the Italian Wedding Soup (it’s can’t miss too, but I could only pick four menu items).
Lobster Ravioli: If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m in the camp that believes seafood is an integral part of Italian cuisine. What better way to prepare ravioli than to stuff it with sweet, succulent lobster? The seafood fun doesn’t stop there, folks. The ravioli are also served with rock shrimp and then smothered in a delightful tomato cream sauce. A truly divine dish for pasta and seafood lovers alike.
This is the final weekend of Devour Indy, so you better make your reservation, stat! Buon appetito!