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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Arni’s Restaurant – ‘It just gets better’

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In 1991, I entered an Arni’s restaurant for the first time for dinner with relatives.

It was the old 86th Street location, and I’ll never forget how good the pizza was, the restaurant’s fun atmosphere and its fascinating décor, which included motorcycles, bicycles and other items mounted on the walls. That visit was truly an exciting experience.

Of course, a lot has changed 20 years later: the Soviet Union collapsed, the Indianapolis Colts won a Super Bowl, America elected its first Black president and NBC took Law & Order off the air (without asking any of us!)

Recently, I revisited Arni’s, which has since moved to 4705 E. 96th St., to discover if it has changed in any way.

The restaurant’s design is still fun, but has “matured” into the style of a fine dining establishment. Patrons will find plenty of comfortable, open seating, which is great for people who hate to be in tight spaces. Customers also may sit in the bar section for a pub-style experience.

Maybe I was extremely hungry, but I could tell the hardest part of this visit was going to be choosing what to order. Arni’s menu has become more interesting over the years, and many items look too good to pass up.

The extensive offerings are available not just for dining in, but also for carry-out orders. Many versions of burgers, sandwiches, soups, pastas, salads and pizzas can be had.

Some unforgettable options that set Arni’s apart include the reggae chicken, crazy Jake’s famous BBQ burger, voodoo pasta, the big daddy and gut buster subs, Mediterranean salad, Snicker’s pie, reuben a la Arni, the fisherman’s platter club, the sunshine crab melt, Arni’s trademark junior/senior salads, and the royal Hawaiian and “bubba-q” pizzas.

Numerous desserts, beverages and spirits are available and surprise items are placed in those areas of the menu each day.

Anyway, after giving some serious consideration, I initially settled on the pizza penne pasta, which comes complete with zesty marinara sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well, those memories of Arni’s pizza wouldn’t go away, so I ended up choosing a regular seven-inch (individual) pizza just as the server was gently prompting me for my order. Sure, it was a “safe” choice, but it was one I didn’t regret.

It seemed like the order arrived in just minutes, and looked great. Arni’s serves a thin (not crisp) crust pizza topped with plenty of cheese and showered with lots of chopped, fine toppings, or in this case, pepperoni. In other words, you are given a pizza with less dough and more taste. Every flavorful bite was enjoyable, and I’ll return in the near future to try that pizza penne pasta.

Arni’s has long been popular among local professionals during lunch hour, and is known as a great place to have a dinner party or large gathering. Although the prices have inched up along with everything else, they are no higher than those at most quality restaurants that cater to middle-class clientele.

Lunch specials are offered daily. Most side items are range in price from $1.99 to $3.50, while most entrees are available between $7.99 and $12 (except the large pizzas which, depending on toppings, are between $16 and $19.)

Arni’s is an Indiana-based company that has restaurants throughout the state. The first Arni’s restaurant was opened in 1965 by Arnold “Arni” Cohen in Lafayette, and there are now eight locations. Cohen passed away in 2002, and the enterprise is now under the operation of his sons, Kurt and Brad.

Arni’s has indeed changed over the years, but in a way that is best described on a page in its menu: “It just gets better.”

For more information about Arni’s, call the Indianapolis location at (317) 571-0077 or visit www.meetyouatarnis.com.

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