Where the Wild Things Grow
Stadium Village/Babe Denny
See those enlarged photographs of burly Italian men on the walls? Those Iozzo guys have a robust, almost folklore-like story, which the Iozzo family is happy to share once you settle in. Their great grandfather Santora “Fred” Iozzo came to America in the 1910s with a vision, settled in Indy, and started a small grocery empire that grew into a restaurant in the 1920s. With the help of his two sons, Fred's business was so successful that it could hold more than 850 people in multiple banquet halls. But then drama ensued, with gunfire: Al Capone got involved (you’ll have to hear it from the Iozzos), and the restaurant closed in 1940. Keeping to the family tradition, Fred’s grand- and great-grandkids re-opened the restaurant in 2009, invigorating those recipes at a new location with a romantic, secluded garden in the back. Famous for its meatball martinis, barrel-aged Manhattans (grandma’s recipe), pesto scallops, and goat cheese appetizer, pork osso buco, Iozzo's above all has possibly the best origin story in town.
The history of this family-run joint is in the garlic bread, which has made people salivate since Vito Provolone's opened as Pasquale’s Pizza in 1974. The garlic bread recipe stayed the same after a 1992 name change, but the menu has been built out to include home cooked classics such as Vito’s spicy vodka sauce and the richest alfredo sauce you’ve ever tasted. Vito's bright green sign is a nod to The Godfather films, so you know they're gonna make you a pizza you can't refuse.
Meridian Kessler, Monument Circle & Fashion Mall
While Italy may be a plane ride away, the locally sourced ingredients at Napolese are something right out of Tuscany. All three Napolese locations make our list for their modern take on Italian food, with an old-school flair. You can expect stone hearth-baked pizzas, cleverly inspired salads that change every month, and appetizers that highlight local farmers. The Italian-heavy wine and local beer list is not to be overlooked. What else would you expect from a joint owned by Martha Hoover, the founder of the successful, brunchy Patachou restaurant brand?
Osteria Pronto opened with the JW Marriott for the Super Bowl in 2011 and remains a fan favorite. While the name means “tavern ready,” the Italian flair felt at Osteria Pronto is much more modern and focused on process, like a trendy Milan eatery. The gnocchi is hand-rolled by sous chef Angelo every day, while the Bolognese with fresh basil and shaved ricotta is simple but perfect. But careful of that chic scarf or silk tie, and get your napkin ready, because the food is estremamente buono.
Named after the wine varietal that translates as “blood of Jove,” (Jove being "God of the Sky"), Sangiovese brings that same romantic and historic robustness to the dining experience. Dark and cozy with sultry lighting, Sangiovese is a glass spilling over with date night. Be sure to try the veal scallopini piccata or the penne alla Emiliana, served with sautéed Italian sausage, prosciutto, and caramelized red onions in a tomato and butter sauce. Having originally opened in 1994, Sangiovese changed ownership in 2007 and is supposedly a staple restaurant for several Pacers basketball legends.
Fletcher Place/Holy Rosary
When you’ve been around since 1933, you know you’re doing something right. Family-owned Iaria’s is most famous for its fresh and sweet tomato sauce, homemade dishes, and homey decor -- its black-and-white family photos on the walls, plush vinyl red booths, and neon lights are a throwback to another time. Regulars typically order the same thing every time they swing in, so we’ll plead the fifth on which dish is best here. Be prepared for a wait, because this place gets poppin’ fast.
Mama knows best, and knows a lot about Italian cooking. Originally from the Italian pocket of Omaha, NE, Mama (and Papa) opened Mama Carrolla’s in a little house that they turned into a restaurant -- which is still family-owned and -run. The Misto Mare -- linguine mixed with shrimp, scallops, clams, squid, and crab meat sautéed with veggies -- is a favorite, but all the classic dishes are contenders. Enjoy your favorite dish on Mama’s great outdoor patio, complete with twinkly lit trees, fountains, and Roman statues.
We might be somewhat landlocked here in Indy, but at Amalfi you may feel like you’re on a part of Italy’s most iconic coast. Founded and owned by Italian-born American dreamers the DiRosa family, and tucked away off the main strip, Amalfi is warm, cozy, intimate, and authentic to back home. Amalfi is so family-focused that original family members are often cooking up the Italian specialties. Some say the eggplant Parmagiana is the best in the city, others debate that it’s the lasagna, and then there’s the gnocchi that is raved about as well. The Amalfi Coast is nice, but an evening at Amalfi is equally worth the trip.