Monday, March 21, 2011

Iozzo's Garden of Italy

So back to the Italian food quest for a minute. My sister and her husband share birthdays within a couple weeks of each other and they wanted to go back to Iozzo’s to celebrate (they had been, we had not). I was happy to continue with my quest to cross some places off the list, so it was a good choice.
So, I really like the way this place looks—from the outside and the inside.  It has a nice independent restaurant feel—the outside looks like it has a lovely outside seating area when the weather is nice (and apparently a back patio area as well) (although the freeway overpass is quite near, might be a little loud out there) and the inside has beautiful exposed brick walls and wood floors.  It feels warm and cozy. One of my favorite interiors I’ve seen in Indy in awhile.
We sat down and looked over the rather extensive menu.  My sister had already ordered the cheese bread when we got there which is served with fresh marinara ($5).  They were slices of bread covered in three cheeses—guessing mozzarella, parmesan and provolone.  The bread was soft and the marinara was pretty good—chunky and house made.  It had a lot of texture to it, and a slightly sweet taste.
After looking over the other apps, I was immediately drawn to the baked clams ($14) which were on the spring specials menu—featuring mainly seafood and recipes influenced by Sardinia.  They were clams that were in the shell and covered in a mixture of bread crumbs, parsley, parmesan garlic, butter, wine and horseradish.  I enjoyed the slight heat of the horseradish—and I enjoyed that it was a unique flavor compared to many preparations of clams you might see.  The clams were tender and cooked properly.  This was probably one of my favorite items of the evening, but not sure how long they will be on the menu since they were a special.
You get a salad with each entrée (although there is an up charge for the Caesar--$3). I went with the house, because I rarely like a Caesar out.  I have to say, the salads were a letdown.  There was nothing about it that made it good to me—it was just some greens with some tomatoes and cucumber slices and a little shredded parmesan.  The dressing was a balsamic, but there wasn’t much on it, and it didn’t impress me. I didn’t eat that much of it. I was glad at least I didn’t pay an extra $3 for the Caesar though, because hubby was even more disappointed with it. The dressing was a vinaigrette, which is probably not really a Caesar dressing as far as I am concerned—it was completely clear. And I am not sure why they charge more for this.
For my main, I had another special, the seafood lasagna ($23). It was described as including lump crab meat, rock shrimp with 5 cheeses, and marinara sauce.  So, honestly, other than a teeny bit of crab shell, I had a hard time really tasting much of the seafood in there.  It wasn’t much different to me than my brother-in-law’s regular 5 cheese lasagna.  It was quite a large portion, and very cheesy.  It wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t anything making it jump out at me, particularly in the seafood area.  And maybe the marinara was a little overpowering a flavor for the seafood.  As a side note though, I will say, my brother in law loves their regular lasagna (which he had that night, and every other time he has been there).
Hubby had the lobster ravioli ($29) which was probably the best entrée on the table.  There were little rock shrimp on top, which I always like. Not sure why, but rock shrimp seem hard to overcook and tend to be more tender than a lot of other shrimp at restaurants.  The pasta had a homemade tomato cream sauce, which was nice, but not so heavy that it completely overwhelmed the ravioli.  I personally would love to see a pasta like this with something like a sage brown butter sauce. Does anyone in Indy do this? 
My sister had the stuffed shrimp entrée special ($27) which I had a bite of.  It was okay, but it was stuffed with crab cake filling, which is generally not my favorite thing—that kind of heavily seasoned bready stuff with a touch of crab in it.  The shrimp were quite large though, and the portion was generous. My sister enjoyed it and told me she thought it was one of the better things she had eaten at Iozzo’s.
We shared several desserts as well.  We had the cannoli ($7), the tiramisu ($7), and the chocolate pyramid ($8).  The pyramid was my favorite, a chocolate pyramid filled with chocolate mousse and white chocolate crème anglaise in the very center. It was the lightest tasting, but was quite good. The chocolate was delicate and was obviously well served from being kept chilled.  The cannoli were also obviously made in advance and chilled, and didn’t benefit so much from it.  If they were making them as they were ordered, and the pastry was even just room temperature, (or even better, warm,) they would be quite tasty.  But chilling the pastry made them a little chewy (and cold obviously) which detracted from the flavor.  The pastry was filled with sweet cream and ricotta cheese, which could have also even benefited a bit from being a little closer to room temp.  There were also some little chocolate chips stuck on the end.  Of course, I realize this is a hard thing for a busy restaurant to do, pipe cannolis to order, but I am just saying how I think they could have been improved.  The tiramisu was probably my least favorite, because honestly, of the bites I had, all I could taste was the espresso used to make them.  I realize coffee is part of making tiramisu, but it should be balanced by the other flavors.  Part of the problem was it was served in a Champagne flute, so it was hard to really get a handle on how to get a mix of the different things in there.
So all in all, I really like the feel and ambiance of Iozzo’s. It may be one of my top picks in that regard in Indy.  The menu is pretty classic Indy-Italian, but I appreciate the special menu which had some unique items on it, some of which were tasty.  My guess is if I return, I will likely be continuing to order off the specials menu simply because it is not exactly the same as every other Italian restaurant in town.  But….the quest continues.
Iozzo’s Garden of Italy
946 S. Meridian Street
Indy  46225

Iozzo's Garden of Italy on Urbanspoon


  1. FIRST!!!

    Bravo's had a brown butter sauce on a Ravioli that I had a while back. It was on their fall menu, so I am not sure if it is still around. Actually, I hope that it is long gone.

  2. If you go back, I'd reccomend the crab cake appetizers. They are actually more crab than breading (althought they are a bit heavy). I'd also say to try the creme brulee. They switch out the different flavors, but if you find out they are serving the white chocolate walnut version, it's some of the best I've ever had.

  3. Joe in Montgomery OHMarch 21, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    We found the same thing in early February. I really want to like the place, but the food is a letdown. My wife's veal was a disaster. Uneven slices, overcooked and tough. My ravoli were ok, but, like Erin, I'm still trying to find a "real" Italian restaurant in Indianapolis. Closest I have to it is Via Vite on Fountain Square in Cincinnati. If you're looking for "red sauce" and cliches, don't go there, however. It, at least, tries to be contemporary Tuscan. We're still not in S.F., NYC, or Philly regarding really great Italian.

  4. I just wanted to comment on the cannoli and say that it is also a peeve of mine that they are so ofent served chilled. I understand why that is, but it's just such a detractor from what is otherwise one of my favorite sweets. As far as tiramisu goes I always tend to think it's a little overrated as a dessert.

  5. The prices on a majority of the things are way overpriced and in only a few cases does the product justify such prices.

  6. Good luck finding any authentic Italian or Sicilian restaurants in Indianapolis. I'm Sicilian and my family is in the restaurant biz here in indy but mainly focuses on catering etc. We have strayed from opening an Italian restaurant in Indianapolis because of price and the fact that most Midwest patrons can't appreciate authentic cuisine of any kind...most like the Americanized bland version like Olive garden etc....The Iria's realize this and make cheap flavorless italian at the near downtown location..and people here think its great while the family laughs at the dumb people lol. I wish I could go out to eat italian in Indianapolis and eat something like my Godmother makes but i just dont see it happening.

  7. "....The Iria's realize this and make cheap flavorless italian at the near downtown location..and people here think its great while the family laughs at the dumb people lol."
    Sure, but how were the portions?

    Seriously, it's the customers fault. People think they're not getting value unless they get a pound of pasta served in a washtub, swimming in a gallon of sauce.

  8. Hi Erin,

    Iozzos had a butternut squash ravioli with a brown butter sage sauce on their fall specials menu. I tried it for dinner, and the raviolis were wonderful. You could tell they were freshly made and the butternut squash inside was very good. However, the sauce was not what I was expecting. Granted, I didnt ask details but I expected a lighter sauce, more on the liquidy side than dense. What was on the plate looking like thick alfredo. It didnt taste like alfredo but neither did it taste brown buttery or sagey. I scraped most of it to the side and seperated my raviolis and then dipped each one in just a touch of sauce, as it was extremely rich.

    Now, I have been to Iozzos multiple times and for the most part really enjoy the food there. I absolutely love the lobster ravioli. I think its delicious. Also, skip the salads and pay the upcharge to get their housemade soups instead of salad. I have had a different one on each of my visits and all have been very good.

  9. The  Huz and I went to Iozzo's for Christmas Eve dinner this year. It was our second time, the first being for my birthday during a Devour Downtown summer event a couple of years ago (I think).

    They were serving a special winter menu in addition to the regular offerings. The only thing we ordered from that was the Italian onion rings appetizer ($10)—thin, breaded onion rings fried and finished with truffle salt, then served with three dipping sauces (garlic basic aioli, spicy ranch, and bacon blue cheese mousse). We both liked these. The rings were floppy (and, to me, salty) and the sauces were flavorful. There was nothing especially Italian about this dish as far as I could tell.

    The Huz ordered the lasagna Bolognese ($19?). It was a very generous portion, served covered in half Iozzo sauce (marinara, I think) and half Alfredo sauce. To be honest, I was surprised he finished it; since he did, dessert was out of the question because there was simply no room left. He LOVED it. I got a small taste, which was was rich and cheesy. He opted for the house salad, and said the vinaigrette tasted different than he expected but wasn't bad. He also drank two glasses of red wine.

    I ordered the lobster ravioli ($30). This was a decadent choice for me because thirty bucks for pasta, seafood or not, is decidedly against my grain. I LOVED it, even commenting to The Huz that I would've liked to tip the plate up and scoop the remaining sauce into my mouth. I opted for Italian wedding soup ($1 up-charge)  and wish I had just gotten the salad. I really wanted something flavorful and hot to warm me on that cold night, and what I got was bland and tepid. I think they must put a spoon of orzo in the bowl, add a scoop of chicken broth, and toss in a couple of fresh spinach leaves—that's *not* Italian wedding soup as far as I'm concerned. Someone didn't even take enough care to stir mine because the orzo was in a solid lump. I asked for some shredded cheese on top but all that did was make it salty.

    I agree with the other commenters who say that good Italian food is hard to find in Indy. I grew up in South Philly and nothing here can hold a candle to even a mediocre place back home. Iozzo's at least reminds me of a place I might find there, though—exposed brick walls, waiter from Italy, tables of people clearly enjoying themselves (i.e., drinking wine and talking loudly). I don't know how authentic the food is compared to the Old Country but I enjoyed it and we had a nice meal out. That said, it's a little expensive for us to eat there regularly...but that can be said of any decent independent place because I'm a cheapo and good ingredients come at a price.

  10. Forgot to mention a pet peeve fromour dinner—cold bread. It's bad enough that the bread isn't really crusty (although it does have a good flavor) but, not only is it not heated, it is out-of-the-fridge cold. That is unacceptable for an Italian restaurant, IMO. Ugh.