You know how I feel about Italian places in Indy, but a friend of mine kept nagging me to try this place for lunch (they are also open for dinner). It is a little mom and pop place, with about 6 tables over on Shadeland. I am a sucker for places like this that I have never ever heard of, so off we went.
At first we were the only ones in there, and we were given quite a warm greeting. Our server was exceptionally friendly and answered our questions. The chef came out toward the end of the meal to make sure everything was ok. These are people who really seem to care about their business and what they are cooking. For instance, although they serve their sodas in cans, they still offered us free refills. They are certainly geared toward very good customer service.
They do sandwiches, pastas and pizza, and ok, pretty much all the pastas are with marinara or Alfredo sauce, but I pretty much assumed that this was going to be your classic Midwestern-Italian food and rolled with it. They offer two specials each day, which are regular menu items, just at a reduced price. I went with the manicotti special which came with a breadstick and was $5.99. I think the regular price was around $8.00, so this was a pretty good deal.
There were two large manicotti filled with an herby ricotta mixture and covered with lots of the marinara sauce and shredded cheese. You know, they were pretty good. The marinara was chunky and fresh tasting, and also had a very savory taste, that wasn’t overly sweet, but let the slight sweetness and the acidic taste of the tomatoes shine through. There were hearty chunks of onion and lots of herbs. It was one of the better marinaras I have had in awhile. Combined with the baked pasta and cheese stuffing, it was all very good. A bite of the cheese filling alone was a bit dry, but you didn’t notice it so much if you ate it all together. My favorite part of the whole meal was the light puffy breadstick served alongside. It was covered in garlic and dried herbs and had a ton of flavor. It was delicious dipped in the marinara. I also heard the server take a carryout order on the phone from someone who was ordering just breadsticks for their lunch—stuffed with olives and cheese, which leads me to believe they will make you breadsticks stuffed with any of their pizza toppings. That sounds good. I would totally do that.
Hubby had the Italian beef sandwich (he is such a sucker for these). They do several different sub/hoagie type sandwiches. The bread is fresh and locally made, and was a great tasting roll that was soft with a nice crispy crust. Hubby thought it didn’t stand up enough to the Italian beef fillings, and once dipped in the au jus on the side became too soggy and flimsy, but he thought it would be very good with some of the other sandwich combos. The meat in the sandwich was good, and nice and tender, but didn’t have the exact distinctive flavor that a really good Italian beef sandwich has, which hubby and I decided must come from cooking the meat in the jus for awhile to absorb all the seasonings. According to hubby, this was more like a very good roast beef sandwich, but didn’t have quite the right flavor combo to be a really good Italian beef. They did serve the spicy giardiniera (pickled jalapenos and other veggies) on the side, which you need with Italian beef, but instead of the sweet roasted peppers that we also like, they just served diced fresh green peppers. Hubby appreciated that they automatically brought a little dish of the au jus too, because that is how he likes to eat it—a little dip with each bite. They also gave the option of provolone cheese on it, which both hubby and I like, but we have been told that cheese isn’t authentic. What do you guys think about this? Hubby wanted me to see if anyone had a strong opinion about this question.
Anyway, this is a decent place. I like the small, mom and pop atmosphere and the genuine interest that the owners are taking in the place. They are doing the classic Hoosier-Italian food, but they are doing it pretty well, and for a very reasonable price (our entire meal was $16 including drinks). It was nearly full when we left, and it was clear there are a lot of regulars coming in. Pasta is a big lunch for me though, I think next time, I would find someone to split a pizza with, as I am interested to see how they are.
The Good Stuff Italian Café
4709 North Shadeland Ave