Saturday, November 28, 2009

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano

Well, this place is one of the most commonly mentioned and/or recommended places to visit by my readers and last night we were planning on going out and I was having a really hard time deciding where to go, so we thought, “why not?”

Well, honestly, on the way home, hubby and I discussed the fact that maybe all the people that recommend this place work there or something. We were not impressed (and if you have recommended it, and don’t work there, please let me know what you like). This place encompassed pretty much everything I don’t like about American-Italian food. Rich and bland and your choice of a tomato sauce, a cream sauce, or a mix of both.

My guess is the menu hasn’t changed since the restaurant opened –although there were a few specials, some of which sounded interesting, but at the recommendation of our waiter (who hadn’t tried several of the items on the menu unfortunately) we went with the Gamberi fra diavolo, or Diablo shrimp. These were 4 large shrimp in a very spicy tomato sauce. Now, the sauce had good flavor—there was lots of garlic and whole pieces of tomato and a fair amount of heat—too bad one of my bites included a big hunk of the hard end of the garlic clove, but what are you going to do? Well, actually the main thing to complain about here was the shrimp—they were completely overcooked and rubbery. Haven’t quite figured out why it is so hard for restaurants to cook shrimp properly (and I know it isn’t impossible because they do it at R Bistro and Oakley’s), but it seems like it is often the case. Ugh. Nothing worse than rubbery shrimp. The sauce was by far the standout and was better just sopped up with the bread.

Oh, the bread was one of the other better things served at Amalfi—they will bring you butter upon request (olive oil on the table). I am usually happy with olive oil, but this bread was so steaming hot, just seemed to call out for butter. The bread are nice sized rolls that had a nice flavor and were moist (and as I said, steaming on the insides) and fresh from the oven.

Unfortunately, things did not really improve from there. I ordered the Tortellini Michelangelo which was tortellini, onions, bacon, mushrooms and a creamy tomato sauce. I was hoping with the onions and bacon, this dish would be a little more exciting than the typical pasta dish in this town, but it was not. It was so one-dimensional. You could taste each ingredient—the crunch of the onions, the chewy dices of the bacon and the large slices of mushrooms, but that was it. There was no melding of the flavors into a unique dish. And it was all just rich. I sort of hoped the partial tomato sauce would bring out a bit of acidic kick, but, I got nothing.

Hubby ordered the veal Marsala and was really disappointed with it as well. Same kind of problems—there was nothing special about it and he felt like if there was Marsala wine in it, it was well hidden. The veal itself was nice and thin and decently cooked (i.e., not overcooked) but there was just nothing exciting about the flavor. I had a bit of it as well and agreed with his assessment. He also ordered one of the specials of the day, which was 4 cheese macaroni and cheese which was probably my favorite part of the entrée portion of the meal, I guess because it was a small portion of a rich dish, and if you are going for pure rich, why not go with mac and cheese (not to mention the combination of cheeses actually gave it a tiny bit of dimension). But still, for good mac and cheese, there are so many places in Indy to get better (as I sat there last night, I specifically mentioned Zest as one example to hubby, and it I am sure is much cheaper).

Which brings me to one of my other complaints about this place—it is pretty pricey for Italian. When you see the prices here and compare them to say, Mama Corolla’s, you can see why that place is jumping. Not that it is amazing either, but very comparable, and they have those artichoke fritters! We got out of Amalfi for almost exactly the same price we paid for Oakley’s last week. And Oakley’s was much better.

We also had dessert—the cannoli which was a cannoli shell filled with a sweetened ricotta cheese mixed with chocolate and sugar and drizzled over the top with chocolate sauce. You would think the cheese would have at least given this dish a bit of a tang, but you would be wrong. It was just rich, and flat, and pretty unmemorable.

Unfortunately, we had the misfortune to also have a server, while very nice, was a bit bumbling, and knew little about many menu items, and pretty much nothing about the wine list. And while many people have recommended this place, I find it is a love it or hate it kind of place, and I have several friends who have had similarly bad experiences to ours. But I would still love to hear from those of you who have recommended it to hear specifically what you like. As far as I can tell, the only thing I enjoyed was the room itself, which is quite warm and feels like you are in a nice restaurant. Other than that, I can’t really see a reason for a re-visit.

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano
1351 West 86th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46260

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon


  1. We ate there, once - and that was one time too many.

    We had a very similar experience last spring, the details escape me because I've deliberately tried to wipe all memory of that meal from my brain. It was a total going-thru-the-motions meal, I remember I was kind of "meh" whatever while we were eating. But when the bill arrived I was outraged, I felt totally gouged for the mediocre fare they serve.

    I hate to admit it, but by far our favorite Italian restaurant in town is Bravo. Imaginative preparations with good ingredients at a very fair price. Pretty sad that a chain restaurant totally puts the independents in town to shame.

  2. Matteo's in Noblesville. A bit of a drive but totally worth it! I went there for the second time this weekend and the food, wine list and service are all superior.

  3. I agree with Lisa. Matteo's in Noblesville is so much better. Best lasagna ever, and I would kill for the marinara sauce recipe. Love the tagliatella tarantella, and a great mushroom soup.

  4. Matteo's...Eh, not so much for me. I've eaten there a few times, and also there when it was L'Opera (different owners). The food from both incarnations seemed generally OK but wasn't memorable, except in a less-than-good way. I still remember the linguine alla vongole (white sauce) that I had one night being so overpoweringly alcoholic-residue-imbued it was barely edible. They must have dumped a pint of bad white wine in it then boiled it down.

    An issue I always had with both L'Opera and Matteo's was that they always seemed reluctant to seat me. (I tend to eat alone) One time, I stood around for some time, being told that they were fully booked while the Maître d' proceeded to usher in a party of two and one of four who had arrived without a reservation (oh, I made sure to eavesdrop) - they finally offered me a table on the outside porch - while there were still tables inside. I declined and walked out.

  5. My husband and I ate Valentine's dinner at Amalfi. The waiter was attentive and competant. The water glasses were kept filled. My husband raved about the mac and cheese, so we shared one as an appetizer. It was fine but a small serving. I ordered a lobster cannelloni and my husband got a stuffed pork dish. The lobster was overcooked and either canned or frozen. It wasn't sweet like lobster but almost had a sour taste. The filling also had an abundance of spinach in it which should have been chopped finer. The ricotta cheese was sparse in the filling. One of the cannellonis was so full of pepper I drank an entire glass of water to get it down. I don't know what kind of sauce was over the top of my dish, but it was cheesy-yellow and just OK. The pork entree in my husband's dish was good but can you believe the potatoes were INSTANT !!!!! Instant potatoes in a fine restaurant should be a crime! I think we would have had a much better meal at Bravo Restaurant or maybe even Red Lobster. We won't be back until Gordon Ramsey jerks a knot in Chef Mario's tail.
    Lisa P.