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Ambrosia masters eloquent simplicity

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As a budding ‘food enthusiast,’ for me, what makes a restaurant surpass others in its class is eloquent simplicity – taking an uncomplicated concept and doing it well.

Ambrosia does just that.

I guess that’s why I enjoyed meeting Gino Pizzi, Ambrosia’s owner. As a true Italian, Pizzi took what he loved and opened a swanky, yet unpretentious restaurant that serves classic and sophisticated Italian fare.

“My passion was really satisfying my craving more than sharing it with others. I eventually decided to share with friends, then friends turned into customers,” said Pizzi.

Pizzi opened Ambrosia in the Broad Ripple area in 1979. He recently opened Ambrosia Centro downtown.

What makes this restaurant special is that it is the essence of Italian culture: family and eating well.

Pizzi hands me a menu and I realize he’s being far too modest in regards to the food selection. He’s taken simplicity to a whole new level. These Italian- titled dishes only have a few well-chosen ingredients.

It took me a while to make a decision on what to order because everything looked so good. I decided to go with the Insalata alla Cesare made with romaine, Parmigiano and house made herb croutons.

With fresh cracked black pepper, the salad was the perfect way to begin lunch. The lettuce was fresh and crisp with the perfect amount of dressing. After eating the salad, I don’t think I could ever go back to other types of croutons again. Fresh is the way to go.

Also joining Pizzi and me was Amy Peddycord of Peddycord Communications. She ordered the Insalata Caprese salad and shared some with me. Consisting of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil oil and balsamic vinaigrette, the salad had a clean taste that was also perfect before a meal.

While waiting for lunch, Pizzi, Peddycord and I discussed food, travel and life in Indianapolis, just to name a few topics. Encased in sweet potato colored walls near a cozy fireplace, I learn that this world traveler is truly in love with great food. I also concluded that Ambrosia is successful because Pizzi has set a tone of eloquent casualness. From his jeans and fine sweater to not having a real office to guiding our neophytic waitress, Pizzi’s focus is not solely on the hardcore aspects of business, but providing customers with an enjoyable experience.

My experience elevated once my lunch was served. I ordered the Penne Rustica. Nestled in a large bowl, the dish consisted of penne pasta with Italian sausage, mixed bell peppers, onions and tomatoes all mixed in a pomodoro or plain tomato sauce. Each entity was cooked to perfection and the flavors blended well together.

I didn’t get to taste it, but Pizzi and Peddycord both had the Integrale (whole wheat spaghetti, black olives, pomodoro sauce, fresh basil) with shrimp added. It looked delicious as well.

While I sipped my green tea, Peddycord easily persuaded me to have dessert. I kicked my calorie counting to the curb and chose the Tartufo. This chocolate masterpiece in a bowl was the perfect ending to such a pleasant lunch. The Tartufo was made out of chocolate gelato stuffed with zabaglione, sprinkled with pure cocoa powder. It sounds rich, but the layers of chocolate was mild to the palate.

Ambrosia is a wonderful experience and a much-needed detour from the typical, but good, Italian food.

Ambrosia’s menu includes Antipasti, meaning before the meal, where one can order Carpaccio al Prosciutto made with parma proscuitto, arugola, parmigiano and lemon vinaigrette; or the Gamberi al Funghetto made with shrimp, shitake mushrooms, garlic balsamic and fresh herbs.

As your pasta dish, order the Penne alla Medici with roasted chicken, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, capers, olive oil and garlic; or the Ravioli della Mamma consisting of spinach and cheese ravioli, pesto and cream.

Ambrosia doesn’t just serve pasta, but Secondi or second course (not pasta). Be adventurous and feast on the Agnello al Forono, herb crusted lamb chops topped with honey-balsamic reduction; or the Filetto al Chianti of perfectly cooked sautéed beef tenderloin with garlic, rosemary and Chianti-Portobllo sauce.

Ambrosia’s serves lunch, priced between $7 and $12, and dinner, $6 and $31.

For more information, visit www.ambrosiaitalian.com.

Ambrosia

915 E. Westfield Blvd.

Indianapolis, IN 46220

(317) 255-3096

Ambrosia Centro

15 East Maryland Street

Indianapolis, IN 46204

(317) 635-3096

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