Being the eternal optimist, we returned to Mama Carolla’s after many years between visits. My in-laws were visiting and had fond memories of the place, so we thought it would be fun to take the kids again, since they were almost too young to remember the last time we were there. Everyone (well except me usually) is typically happy with an Italian menu, and I did remember some redeeming qualities in this place, even if I am still fairly jaded about Indy’s Italian food in general.
The place definitely isn’t lacking in charm—I love the setting of an old house in SoBro with all the small dining spaces made up of the various rooms in the house. This place just feels like an Italian restaurant and is fairly oozing with charm. Our server was also quite charming, and did a good job making sure we didn’t run out of anything we needed. The food was paced well and while you felt like you weren’t rushed through it, you didn’t feel impatient either.
My favorite thing at every visit has always been “Holly’s artichoke fritters,” ($7.99) and this time was no exception. They are little fried balls of artichoke and breadcrumbs and then they’re stuffed with goat cheese. When you bite into them, the inside is nice gooey, tangy goat cheese and you get even a little tangier flavor with the lemon aioli that is generously drizzled over the top. I don’t think I will ever go to Mama Carolla’s without getting these. If they took them off the menu, I would be very sad.
We also had an order of the cheesy garlic bread ($4.99). This is basically a big hunk of bread with a lot of cheese melted over it. I mean, you can’t really go wrong here, although once we got the regular loaf of bread that comes with every meal, I think I sort of preferred the simplicity of it with some seasoned olive oil even more. You could really taste the bread and enjoy the crusty edge.
Hubby and I split the rosemary chicken lasagna ($16.99) because it just sounded interesting and just different enough. It was a variation of classic lasagna that was made with chicken, rosemary, mushrooms, spinach, ricotta and mozzarella and then just on the plate underneath, there was a tomato butter sauce. It was good, I mean, it had a decent flavor and a lot of spinach and mushrooms, which I liked. I also liked that it wasn’t tomato sauce heavy, which I wasn’t in the mood for. It didn’t blow my mind, but I didn’t feel disappointed either. I was really glad we split it though, as it was the right amount of food for the two of us, especially considering it also comes with a salad. I had the garden salad with the creamy Italian dressing. The dressing was lightly sweet—so not my favorite, but it was an okay salad. My son’s Caesar was better.
My son had the chicken parmesan ($16.99). It was your classic parmesan with a breaded chicken cutlet covered in lots of cheese and topped with lots of marinara. There was also penne pasta underneath. I’m not sure what was up with this dish, but it was not good. There was something off about the chicken to me—it almost tasted freezer burned or something. Without discussing it at the time, he seemed to agree and while he happily ate the pasta, but the chicken went largely uneaten.
By far the best entrée on the table that night was my daughter’s dish. She had a special that consisted of homemade goat cheese-filled ravioli with spinach, tomatoes, large pieces of chicken and mushrooms on top of it. It was served in a vodka cream and tomato sauce. There was a lot going on here, but all the parts of the dish were prepared just right and they all went together well. The chicken was tender and fresh, and the goat cheese flavor cut through some of the richness of the dish. Having some freshness of the veg was good too. I think maybe going with specials is a good idea here, as there is more of a likelihood perhaps that they are fresher.
We had a good time, and a nice bottle of wine, and I really liked those fritters. The meal was fine, but again, nothing that made me change my mind about Italian food in Indy.
1031 East 54th Street