Indianapolis, IN 46220
Mama Carolla's ranks near the top of my favorite Italian restaurants in the city. Just a forewarning, they do maintain special hours. They are closed Sunday & Monday, and only open for dinner which starts at 5pm. They do not take reservations and will not seat you until your entire party is present. The moral of the story is plan on waiting on the weekends and make sure you invite your punctual friends. There is also a lounge to wait with a few tables and a bar. Luckily for us, we went early on a Thursday (6:30) and my college friends are prompt people. We had a party of four; @RFSchaffner, LMH, and Jim Calhoun. No, not the famed UCONN basketball coach. Jim Calhoun is a girl. Its a long story, and I did mention these are my college friends. The hostess sat us upstairs, in a table overlooking a balcony. The restaurant is a 1920's transformed house with Mediterannean and Spanish style architecture. It has a beautiful interior with what seems like original fixtures. The restaurant has a very intimate feel, so it is perfect for a date night. There was a roaring fire near the hostess stand and you just feel welcome when you walk in. During the summer there is seating on the patio, and I believe I have expressed the need for more restaurants with outdoor seating in the city. Our service was good. Our waitress knew the menu and had many suggestions for us.
Heeding our waitress's suggestion, we started with the artichoke fritters and bruschetta. The bruschetta was large slices of Italian bread, similar to Texas toast size bread. The bruschetta was topped shredded mozarella and fresh tomatoes. It was a very typical bruschetta, with notes of garlic, basil, and vinegar. The fritters were the about size of a meatball. They were filled with goat cheese and had lemon aioli drizzled on top. I have been asked many times to define an aioli. In its simplest form, think of a fancy mayo, as it is usually a blend of garlic, oil, and egg emulsion. For my entree, I ordered the carbonara with a side of tomato bread soup. The flavor in the soup was something like I had never tasted before. It had a very thick texture, but not much flavor. I had to add salt and pepper to enhance the flavor. I could barely taste the tomato, I would not order it again. The carbonara was the star of the meal. Carbonara is one of my all time favorite dishes. The dish is comprised of fetuccini noodles with an egg based cream sauce, with a little added white wine for acidity. There are pieces of pancetta, mushrooms, peas, and a dusting of parsely for a fresh flavor. I think I like how there is an ample amount of pancetta in every bite. For those of you who don't know what pancetta is, think Italian bacon, so there is a nice salty flavor to acompany the creamy sauce. I think the peas and mushrooms are added so you can convince yourself that it is a healthy meal because there are veggies involved. In all reality it is a very heavy dish. This is the first time in a while I did not join the clean plate club as the meal was so filling. The problem with cream based sauces, is that it not great the next day. More often than not, the sauce breaks when you reheat the dish. I recommend you go easy on the appetizers, if you plan on finishing the entire meal.
I'm going to leave you with an exchange between @rfschaffner and myself during this meal. He recently became a homeowner and was talking about the previous owner's infatuation with the color red. The house had many different shades of red on the exterior doors, the garage, and the mailbox post.
@RFS: "Everything is some different shade of red on the house. I can't wait to paint it. This lady was really into the color red"@RealEAtingIndy: "Yeah, now she's really into dirt and worms."
"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while EAting a homegrown tomato." -Lewis Grizzard