Friday, February 13, 2009

Mama Carolla's

At the request of a reader who is searching for good Italian in Indy, I decided to head over to Mama Carolla’s in Broad Ripple. I have been there before, probably 2 years ago, and had a pretty good meal. This thing I like about this place is it is a neighborhoody restaurant with a lot of charm. It is in an old house that has been converted but keeping a lot of the old charm of the house including a nice warm fireplace as you walk in the front door. This place is also very reasonably priced, which is an unusual thing for Italian restaurants around here. Generally, the menu is pretty typical of a Midwestern Italian restaurant, with a few variations, and a bit more selection than many.

Man, is this place popular though—there were 6 of us and we waited at least 40 minutes to be seated and we got there at 5:45! They don’t take reservations at all on the weekends and only for parties of 8 or more during the week. Every square inch of the place was packed with people including the outside area that was heated only with patio heaters (and it was probably about 20 degrees). Luckily we got a seat at the bar and had some wine—and the hostess was very helpful, coming up to us several times to update us on the status of the table that we were waiting on.

Once we were seated in one of the little alcoves that are scattered throughout the house, we were promptly greeted by a very friendly server who brought us drinks and took an appetizer order. They have great bread (for free), and if you get the cheesy bread (an extra charge), it is even better, garlic bread coated with a layer of cheese. (And they will still bring you the free bread as well). We also got the artichoke fritters which are probably my favorite thing on the menu (pictured here). They are little balls of artichoke hearts and goat cheese fried and served with a goat cheese sauce lightly drizzled over the top. I really like these fritters!

Everybody at our table got an entrée except for me; I had the mussels from the antipasto menu. And before I go on, the antipasto menu has lots of things that sound really good. You could make a great meal out of antipasto. The mussels were good—the broth was really good, lots of garlic and chili pepper—had a bit of a kick to it after a few of them. The mussels were a great size (I prefer them small) but I am not sure if they were a little overcooked or a little past their prime, but they were a little, well, soft is the only way I can describe it.

One of the nice things about this place is that every entrée comes with soup or salad. I had some soup and a bite of hubby’s Caesar salad. They were both good. I had the soup of the day, creamy potato with proscuitto—it was tasty. So you can really have a nice meal for a very reasonable price if you want to just get an entrée and the soup or salad. I think the entrees ranged from about $11-20 or so.

Hubby had spinach and cheese ravioli in a pesto cream sauce. It was quite tasty and I liked that the portions aren’t as overwhelming as at most Italian restaurants. I had a sample of several other entrees including the veal saltimbocca and chicken parmesan. The veal was drenched in tomato sauce which detracted from the taste of it. I don’t think saltimbocca is supposed to be covered in tomato sauce and cheese, but hey, everyone has their own recipe I guess. Actually, the chicken was better since it is supposed to have tomato sauce on it and the chicken was perfectly cooked.

The wine list is up my alley, lots of Italian wines, which are some of my favorites. There are a lot of little touches that make the experience a bit nicer than average. They leave water on the table, and a nice jug of olive oil. Also, one of the people in my party wanted me to mention that he was happy that when they refilled his iced tea, that they brought a new glass with a fresh lemon since normally at most places, they just pour you a refill without a fresh lemon.

Overall, this place is a great value and has quite a bit of charm and a friendly staff. The food is pretty good and I would say to date, it is my favorite Italian in Indy (not that I have been to all of them for sure). If you don’t mind a wait, check it out.

Mama Carolla’s
1031 East 54th Street
Indy 46220
(no website I could find)

Mama Carolla's Old Italian on Urbanspoon


  1. Veal Saltimbocca drenched in tomato sauce? That's not Saltimbocca. That's sacrilegious!

    If the mussels were soft or slightly mushy it means they were previously frozen.

    On the other hand the artichoke fritters sound good. Does this mean we should give Mama Carolla's another try?

    -disgruntled foodie

  2. Foodie-

    I don't know, I am torn about this one. On the one hand I DO really like the artichoke fritters and the wine list, prices and atmosphere, but all in all it is a pretty classic midwestern Italian restaurant I guess...and I agree with you on the veal. It was not saltimbocca.

  3. What bothers me about this place is that they don't make anything in house. They don't make their own pasta or soup. We went there late in the summer, not having been in years, and were terribly disappointed. The best part of the meal was the prosecco.

  4. For my money Vito Provolone's on the south side is the best Italian in Indy. Chicken and Filet marsala are outstanding. They also have homemade soups and salad dressings. Soft, buttery, garlic bread...I could go on and on...

  5. I'd love a review from you for Enrico's, my favorite local Italian place! It competes for much of the same crowd at Mama Carolla's, but doesn't get the recognition they do without their quaint location and space. Nothing to look at from the outside and decent enough inside, it is the food and service that shines.

  6. I haven't been to Enrico's in years. I really liked a creamy chicken tetrazzini-like baked entree that they offered and would always order that. My complaint there, and Mama Carolla's as well, is that the soups, salad, and bread are nothing special. These starter items, along with desserts, are generally my favorite parts of dining out. Not many restaurants put as much focus on these items as they do on entrees so the ones that do really stand out to me. I'd like to try Enrico's again soon.

  7. I hear you guys, and I will go to Enrico's one of these days---I have been there once, quite awhile ago and besides for being the only ones in there for most of the night, I enjoyed myself...the chef was really nice and chatted with us. It's on the list!

  8. You need to go to Iaria's. Best Italian around!