Monday, October 3, 2011

Osteria Pronto

So again, the eternal optimist, I met a friend for dinner at Osteria Pronto.  I really felt like this was a place I needed to try, and I have had a lot people ask me about it and several recommend it as well.  I do love the new JW Marriot in general though—at least the way it looks (I don’t know much more than that outside of this meal). And I was impressed when I walked in because you really feel like you are walking into a cosmopolitan hotel.  The interior of the restaurant is also nice—they have done a good job of skating the line between fine dining and more casual dining in décor—you would feel welcome here no matter what you were wearing (for instance, there are no tablecloths on the tables). I loved the marble everywhere though, including around the open kitchen.  We were sat at a nice booth looking at the kitchen which was sort of fun for me, although if you were much closer, some might feel a bit too close to all the servers hurriedly coming and going.
Our server, who I recognized from several other restaurants in town (you know it’s bad when you start recognizing the servers) came and greeted us and took our drink orders. I have to say I was a little giddy when he told us a bit about the chef and the fact that we would not see any marinara or Alfredo sauces coming out of the kitchen.  But there were cream-type sauces as well as tomato based, they were just a bit different.

My friend and I agreed to try two appetizers to share, both of which were recommended by our server.  The first was carpaccio ($10), which is always one of my favorites anyway and as my friend pointed out, one of my go-to dishes to compare at restaurants.  We also ordered the seared tuna appetizer ($11).  The extremely thin slices of the beef in the carpaccio were nice and fresh and tender, but the dish overall was a bit lackluster.  It was topped with slices of Parmigiano, a few capers and a drizzle of a dressing of sorts. The center was mounded with arugula.  So my problem was that while all the ingredients seemed impeccably fresh—the dressing that was drizzled on the beef didn’t seem to go (it was a little sweet) and there was really no dressing on the greens.  There was one lemon wedge on the side, so maybe that was for the greens, but if it were up to me, I would dress the greens with something a little more acidic that you could eat along with the beef, and maybe drizzle the beef with some olive oil.  And something with a little different texture would be good—onions or shallots or something?  The capers helped, but there wasn’t that many of them. The Parmigiano cheese was liberally applied and honestly saved it by acting as seasoning for everything else with its saltiness.
Sadly, the story sort of repeated with the tuna starter.  It was extremely high quality tuna, just barely seared on the edges, but it was just sliced and basically unseasoned.  Again, there was more arugula, which was topped with lovely very thinly sliced shaved fennel (oooh, that might be nice with the beef), more of the capers, and a Sherry vinaigrette.  I tasted the vinaigrette a bit more on the salad on this dish, but overall, it seemed generally under seasoned.  It is really kind of a shame, because like I said, the ingredients were lovely in their freshness, but the dishes didn’t completely come together.  Neither was bad, but neither was really great.

For our main dishes, we both got pastas, and I really appreciate that they have full and small sized portions. One of the reasons I rarely order pasta is that I fill up quickly on it and just end up feeling overwhelmed by the amount of food on my plate.  We both ordered the small sized portions and had more than enough (I don’t think either of us finished). I ordered the cappellini with shrimp, mascarpone, fava beans, fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, and “truffle fontina fonduta” ($11).  So basically, their lighter version of a cream type sauce.  But it was much lighter, and honestly, it was pretty good.  The flavor was not quite as sort of complicated as I imagined from all those ingredients, but that may be a good thing.  The bowl of noodles had 3 or 4 large shrimp in it and lots of quartered fresh cherry tomatoes and quite a few favas.  It was topped with what was either the mascarpone of the fonduta, but it was sort of hard to tell—I mixed it all together.  It had a good, earthy flavor with just a bit of tanginess.  Honestly, the shrimp and the favas I could have lived without—the shrimp was, in typical fashion, overcooked, and the favas were sort of pasty.  Pretty sure they are not really in season anymore though, so that may be the problem—honestly I was surprised to see them on the menu.  I love fresh favas though, and earlier in the summer, I bet this dish steps up a notch. I will be curious to see if they come off the menu now that it is officially autumn.  My friend had the spaghetti with Tuscan meatballs ($12) in a light tomato sauce (see what I mean?).  It wasn’t bad, and as our server explained the meat in the meatballs in very finely ground, so the texture is very smooth, but I liked mine better overall (as did she).
So we did go ahead and order some desserts as well (all desserts are $7)—we got the tiramisu and the tortelli.  It was funny, when they were placed in front of us, we noticed how much smaller the portion of the tiramisu was, but in the end, we both ended up enjoying it a touch more I think.  It was served in a coffee cup, and had just the right balance of the coffee flavor with some chocolate too—our only complaint, (and our server warned us) was the thick topping of cocoa powder because it can make you sneeze.  We both actually choked a little on it, there was so much.  The tortelli were the restaurant’s version of doughnuts made with cream puff dough.   They were large and light and covered with a liberal amount of powdered sugar and drizzled in chocolate.  I would have loved something to dip them in (maybe a spicy hot chocolate?)in place of the drizzles of chocolate that sort of got lost with all the sugar, but maybe that’s just me. They are certainly an easier item to share and I would order either again.

Overall, I think Osteria Pronto is a nice addition to our downtown scene. It isn’t a chain, and in fact is making a real effort to offer alternatives to all the other Italian restaurants in Indy.  In my opinion, many of the dishes could use some tweaks, but at this point, I will say that it is probably one of the few Italian places I have been to that I will likely actually return to.  The interior is nice, the service professional, and the food is pretty good.  So let’s hear what you guys think about it.
(A side note, but something that was quite annoying, and something you should know about…I was running late and decided to valet park because my friend had told me that you could do it if you are eating in the restaurant and they discounted the price to $7.  The valet also told me the same thing as I pulled in.  When we left and went to pay for our valet tickets, we were both charged $23 (!) to valet park because we had been there longer than some arbitrary time frame they have set.  No one told us there was any limitation on the time.  I thought that was pretty lame. And expensive.  My advice, do the self park).
Osteria Pronto
at the JW Mariott
10 S. West Street
Indy  46204

Osteria Pronto on Urbanspoon


  1. Just an FYI, self park is not a lot cheaper. Anything more than three hours I believe is $28. Or you can just valet for $7 and talk less!

    Nothing on the menu looks that inspiring to me. I am not sure if there was anything here to convince me to try it.

  2. Eh. It is extremely close to my office for lunch and I don't have to worry about parking, but I was underwhelmed. I won't go back.

  3. We had dinner there on a Saturday night a couple of weeks ago. Lucked out on the parking I guess, we got a metered spot half a block away on Washington.

    First impressions were that the hostesses were a couple of giggly teenage ditzes, have no idea how they got hired. And wasn't thrilled that there weren't any tablecloths, I really can't abide that in a place with these kind of menu prices. If you're charging this much to begin with, add a dollar to your prices and get the tablecloths. Or at minimum put a coaster under the water glass so you don't have to stare at puddles on your table all night.

    I remember the breads were a mixed bag - the rolls were tasteless and textureless blah, but the Italian bread was very good. I don't know why they even bothered putting those rolls in the basket.

    The waiter was pretty clueless, he was obviously inexperienced. Nice guy and enthusiastic, but he was of zero help with the wine list and they don't have a sommelier. I might've been tempted to order one of their Barolos or Barberescas, but I'm not going to drop $100 on a bottle of wine if I don't get a confident opinion - especially on a young Barolo that might be wound tight. Ended up getting a Pio Cesare Barbera, pretty pedestrian wine that was priced triple retail.

    My wife and I split the antipasto pronto to start. The prosciutto and salumi were excellent, as was the house made caponata. I would definitely order this again.

    The head chef is from the Piedmont, so I knew I'd be getting their Osso Bucco. And it was just incredible. If you eat here, you have to order this. Excellent piece of veal, and the risotto Milanese was mind-boggling. Luscious with marrow and God knows how much butter, the best risotto I've ever had.

    My wife had the scallopine di vitello, which was just ok. Looking over the menu, probably should've ordered the Filetto di Manzo - another northern Italian classic that I suspect they would also knock out of the park.

    So definitely a mixed bad, a lot of negatives (which are fixable) and one amazing dish. But I forgive everything, IMO that Osso Bucco redeems all sins. PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE THAT RECIPE!

  4. wibia, thanks for the advice... and yes, it is not as exciting a menu as I'd hoped.

    Andrea, I can see that. What did you have?

    Pete, thanks for your thoughts...the osso bucco sounds tempting, especially with the risotto. We actually had pretty decent service I'd say, and I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary at the host stand the night we were there...and you know I would notice. :)

  5. I've been for breakfast when I had a meeting onsite. The breakfast is a standard Marriott type of breakfast, so I wouldn't recommend expecting too much out of it. Then again, I wouldn't really anticipate anyone dining there for breakfast unless you were staying onsite for a meeting. But alas...everyone does rave about the Osso Bucco as ChicagoPete mentioned, even the JW staff. I'd make it there to try that only because I've heard so much.

  6. You can validate your parking at the checkin table. I ate there for lunch and dinner, and didn't have to pay for parking. Just make sure to ask before you are seated. Someone posted a negative parking fee comment on their Facebook page too, and OP immediately offered to refund their money spent on parking.

  7. I have always parked in the parking garage directly across the street from JW...I think most of it is government parking but there is a public section. Dont remember how much but I dont recall ever spending $28!

    And @chicagopete, unless something has changed very recently at osteria they do in fact have a somm. I sell wine to osteria and have met him. Maybe he was not working that particular evening? Regardless, the wait staff should be better versed on the list themselves.

  8. LT1992, we did have our parking validated, and they still refused to give us the lower rate. Not sure what that was all about. But an additional $23 charge on top of dinner might be enough to make me not want to go.

    Lindsay, sounds like across the street may be the best option, thanks for the tip!

  9. No Red Sauce Joe Montgomery OHOctober 11, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    Dined there shortly after it opened and was underwhelmed. Just back from St. Louis and, with one notable exception, Italian there is too typical Midwest red sauce heaven.

    Like Erin, I'm hopeful for a really, really top notch Italian that's not in the dark ages in Indianapolis. Looks like we're still waiting.