Monday, March 31, 2014

Ambrosia - Revisit

Ok, flat out, in my opinion, Italian food is one of Indy’s weak links. We have a ton of Italian places, but I am always amazed and how similar their menus are (and the food as well). Honestly, it’s a struggle to get me to any of them. My sister and her husband tend to like it more than I do, and it was their birthdays, so we decided to give Ambrosia a try—it’s not new, but I was looking forward to checking out their new space down on College and Kessler.

First of all, their bread is excellent. Excellent and completely addictive. It’s a sliced Italian loaf, served warm and they serve it with very tasty olive oil that is on the table. We had A LOT of it.
The menu there is kind of weirdly organized. There are two sections of antipasti in two different places, with salads and soups in between. I sort of thought maybe it was because one was hot and one was cold, but that is not the case. Also, they have the pastas divided up into two sections as well with no particular theme…so make sure you pay attention to the whole menu.

We started with the artichokes ($10) and the octopus starter ($10). My sister and hubby had the grilled shrimp wrapped in prosciutto ($12). I love artichokes, and you don’t see them too often on menus. These were nice because they were just the hearts and stems, which are the best parts. They were lightly marinated and grilled and served with some roasted red peppers and on top of a balsamic dressing. I would get these again. The octopus was very good as well I thought. I liked the way they served a piece of the tentacles on top of a cooked sliced potatoes, with some arugula, chopped tomatoes and drizzled with a vinaigrette. The octopus was tender and the slices of potatoes gave it a heartier feel. The tomatoes and greens gave it a little zip. Another one I liked.  I wasn’t as big of a fan of the shrimp appetizer because I felt the shrimp was tough. My sister and her husband really liked it though, so maybe it was just my shrimp. And the La Quercia prosciutto they use is very tasty. 

My sister and I also shared a salad—the “mista” ($7). It was mixed greens with finely diced tomatoes and Gorgonzola with balsamic dressing. The salad tasted good, and even the tomatoes were tasty—not the whitish out of season ones you expect. There was plenty of Gorgonzola and dressing. The problem with this salad was that the greens were really wilty. I am not sure if they were not super fresh or if they maybe sat under a heat lamp for a second or what, but they were too soft. My brother-in-law had a Caesar and hubby had a bite and both said it was good.

Moving on to the entrées, things went a bit south for me. Hubby had the best entrée dish, the tortellini filled with meat, and in a pancetta and Parmesan cream sauce ($17). It was a rich sauce, but the tortellini was fresh and the whole dish had nice slightly salty flavor from the pancetta. I had a special, which was a shrimp dish in a lighter garlic and lemon-type sauce with diced tomatoes. I enjoyed the fresh flavor of the seasonings, but again the shrimp themselves were overcooked. I also thought the potatoes served underneath were tasty. Sliced similarly to the ones with the octopus, but these were seared and were crisp on the edges. I really liked the very crisp ones the best. I substituted the green beans for some spinach, which they did after I asked, and it was good—fresh spinach with just some garlic and quickly sautéed. Parts of the dish were good and the overall flavor wasn’t bad I thought, just the main aspect of the dish (the shrimp) was off.

My sister had the linguine with clams (and some added shrimp) ($16.50 + $5 for shrimp). I don’t know about this one. The one clam I had was sandy and the “white wine butter sauce” with olive oil and garlic wasn’t overly flavorful. This is a pretty simple dish, but this one could have used a bit more to it I think. Maybe I am just jaded because I make this one at home pretty successfully.

We shared a couple of desserts as well—the tartufo ($7) and the cannoli ($6). I liked the cannoli because they did a good job of keeping the shell of the cannoli crust. I didn’t seem like it had been made days early and filled and then frozen. I also enjoyed the slightly less sweet flavor of the ricotta based filling, although it seemed like it was calling out for a drizzle of some semi-sweet chocolate or something to make it just a little sweeter. The tartufo was good as well, and you certainly got your chocolate quotient here. It was chocolate gelato filled with frozen custard and rolled in cocoa. Between the two, it was a nice balance.
Overall, I think the starters (and bread) were really quite good. I could easily make a meal out of first courses, or maybe split an entrée (likely hubby’s pasta) or skip them altogether. The interior is nice (although I never ate inside at the old location so I can’t really compare it) and seems modern and fresh. Our server was very good and helpful, answering several of our questions efficiently. We had drinks and refills when we needed them and our food was brought out with proper pacing. My one piece of advice, skip any of the shrimp dishes.

5903 N. College Ave
Indy 46220
Ambrosia on Urbanspoon


  1. My husband and I are traveling to Indianapolis next week for a business meeting. We are making this into a family vacation since we won't have time till next year so I have been looking for things to do while we are there. We will definitely have to try this place out. The linguine with clams and the cannoli look so good!

    Mia |

  2. We had a very nice Christmas Eve dinner here. The Huz likes to have Italian when we go out for Christmas Eve and, as you said, choices here leave much to be desired. When I saw this review earlier in the year I made a note on the calendar to try it.

    We started with the grilled octopus you mentioned. It was very good. I don't think I would've chosen it from the menu without your recommendation so I'm glad I reread this review before the meal.

    Next we had soup. I had the tortellini because I wanted to try them without ordering them as an entree. They were delicious in the soup and the housemade chicken broth was excellent. The Huz had the minestrone, which he enjoyed very much.

    For entrées I chose a special—butternut squash ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce—and The Huz chose the panna (meat tortellini dish) based on my telling him your recommendation. I didn't dislike the ravioli but I wouldn't choose them again. Pro: small, cooked well, perfect browning of the butter. Con: very sweet, sauce was just a lot of the butter, not much other flavor. The sage wasn't prominent, which I preferred, but I could see how that would be a problem for others. I should've asked for more Parmesan. The Huz liked the tortellini dish overall but he wished it were creamier; the sauce was a little dry (like tacky glue, like maybe it sat out for a bit before it got to us, see possible reason below) and that detracted from his enjoyment of the dish. I had a bite of his and liked the flavors but wouldn't want a whole plate of it—too salty for me.

    For dessert we had the tiramisu, which is the only choice made in house. (They also make the filling for the cannoli, though.) I don't like coffee so I don't enjoy tiramisu but I tried a couple bites and can confirm that it's a quality version. The chocolate drizzle on the plate is Hershey's syrup, though, if my palate can be trusted on that. The Huz enjoyed the tiramisu with a cup of coffee.

    Other notes:

    The bread is outstanding, yes, as is the olive oil for dipping. They get the bread from NJ, which may explain why it tastes like the bread I would expect at an Italian restaurant. I asked for a second basket, which I was hoping to have with the soup but it didn't come until the entrée course. No problem—I mopped up the brown butter with it.

    Our server has been working there 14 years. He was attentive and knowledgeable and friendly. There was a bit of a delay after the soup that he came over to explain—a large table in the party room was ahead of us in the kitchen—and I thought that was courteous (although I wished we had bread).

    The owner was walking around and, when he came to our table, we shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. That was nice.

    The dining room has a stylish decor, is kept tidy, and isn't overly loud. The fake fireplace is odd.

    Our service, even beyond the waiter, was very good. And the bussers are so nicely dressed that I thought, "Why is this man taking my plate?"

    Overall it was a positive experience and a solid meal. The prices were a couple bucks more than you noted. It's too bad more affordable Italian food in Indy is, at best, mediocre.