Born in Calabria, Italy, in 1888, Santora “Fred” Iozzo immigrated to New York City at the age of 17, hoping to create a new life for himself and the family he planned to build. After working on railroad lines in Massachusetts and Ohio, Fred landed in Indianapolis and quickly established an empire of grocery stores throughout the city. The economic onslaught of the Great Depression proved to be too much for this empire, though, and shop after shop began to close. Fred decided to begin anew yet again, founding a restaurant in 1930, naming it Iozzo’s Garden of Italy, and heading up operations until its unfortunate closure in 1940.
Along with her husband, Greg, Katie Harris decided to honor the memory of her great-grandfather Fred by reopening the restaurant in 2009. The reimagined establishment incorporates a few modern touches, but it mainly draws inspiration from traditional Italian culture. The chefs form meatballs by hand and make everything from alfredo to bolognese sauces in-house. At the same time, they embrace a slightly more modern approach by offering whole-wheat and gluten-free pastas, throwing in menu curveballs such as maple-bourbon pork, and serving holographic chicken piccata. Their culinary diligence earned them a Best of Metromix award in 2011.
With its rustic brickwork, wooden floorboards, and Tuscan-yellow walls, the eatery’s dining room exudes a rustic charm, and the pendant lamps and linen-draped tables add small touches of contemporary refinement. Outdoors, the courtyard area echoes the Old-World ambiance, recreating the feel of an Italian alleyway complete with a faux street lamp and cobblestone walkway.
When perched on a cushy high-rise seat inside the retro environs of Cindy's Diner, one will likely encounter owner John Scheele as he darts about the kitchen, whipping up hearty home-style dishes lauded by reporters from News Sentinel. He sets down simmering plates of farm-fresh eggs, stacks of hot cakes, and thick sandwiches on the bright red and chrome bar, taking time to greet new faces and exchange new jokes with the regulars. When the skilled cook gets an order for his signature "garbage" breakfast, he cracks open eggs before mixing in potatoes, cheese, onions, and ham. He also creates fresh donuts using an old-fashioned machine, icing the warm morsels in strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate.
John keeps his establishment a family affair with his wife Cindy, along with their three children and 20 grandchildren, who can often be spotted serving plates of all-day breakfast and refilling mugs of coffee. Rustic jukeboxes rest on the countertop, showcasing a selection of old-timey tunes, such as "Seven Spanish Angels" and "There's No Such Thing as a Cordless Telephone".
At Lorenzo's Bistro and Bakery, the bakers make their own dough from scratch for crusty breads baked on the hearth. Every day, visitors can stop in for the warm baguettes, challah, and french bread, as well as daily specials such as Sunday's cracked-wheat loaves.
But the bread is just the start of the culinary journey, which executive chef Wess Rose executes with an eye toward contemporary American dishes and Euro-American influences. Elegant steak, seafood, and pasta join surprise touches, such as the chefs' take on a louisville hot brown—smoked shaved turkey breast atop fresh challah bread topped with tomatoes, cheddar jack mornay sauce, crispy bacon, and chives. Charbroiled salmon fillets glisten with raspberry barbecue glaze, and marinated portobellos and vegetable medleys stuff puff pastries to create vegetable wellingtons, which are topped with pesto and feta.
In the restaurant's foyer, the staff mans a market where people can grab cups of coffee or pick up ready-to-eat entrees to take home. In addition to the breads, customers often drop by to pick up muffins, scones, and sandwiches for meals on the go that are tastier than oatmeal in a tube.
An independently owned restaurant that has been building its open-establishment reputation for nearly four decades, The Carriage House Dining Room & Gardens has cemented its status as Indiana's destination restaurant. For 24 years, it has received the AAA Four Diamond Award (one of only four Midwestern restaurants to accomplish this). And for the past 28 years, Wine Spectator has praised its cellar, most recently with a Best of Award of Excellence in 2013.
These achievements would be impressive on the strength of a single menu, but The Carriage House changes up its board of fare every season. Prepared in traditional French style—in accordance with the vision of the restaurant's founder, Indiana Restaurant Association Hall-of-Famer Evelyn C. George—each dish is made fresh from gourmet ingredients. These selections infuse the dishes and cocktails, which might include caramelized apple crepe with creme fraiche, grilled sirloin steak with horseradish-cream sauce or eggs benedict with pancetta, asparagus, and basil hollandaise. The restaurant also hosts a gourmet selection of breakfast, lunch, and delectable European-style pastries.
The impeccable presentation doesn't stop at the dinner plate's edge. It encompasses the main dining room's hand-hewn walnut beams (unchanged since The Carriage House was first built as a church in 1851) where live classical guitar can be heard ruminating in the air and its showcase of Indiana Hoosier Salon paintings dating from the early 20th century. No matter the season, sommelier Judith Coté (Evelyn's daughter) can recommend a wine for any occasion thanks to her years of study with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
The historical brick building that houses Janko's Little Zagreb, once a reputed 1940s brothel, now beckons in a much more respectable clientele with its cheerful red awning and brightly lit dining room. Large cushy booths enclose red-checkered tables, while IU football and basketball posters speckle the walls. Tables have a clear view of two open grills, which sizzle with menu items including thick, succulent USDA Choice steaks, seafood, and more. An extensive wine list and locally made beer from Upland Brewing Company wash down entrees as IU fans dish out endless Hoosier puns, such as “Hoosier daddy?” and “Hoosier favorite Disney princess?”
After graduating from England's Southampton University, Jacqueline Bols began her culinary career in the French and Italian rivieras, serving her creations on private yachts in Cannes, Monaco, and Saint-Tropez. Later, she catered American events, earning the Charles Heidsieck Award for Culinary Excellence and serving her feasts to such famed diners as Oprah Winfrey, Sean Connery, Tommy Hilfiger, and Kevin Costner.
In 2001, Jacqueline opened Jacquie’s Café & Gourmet Catering, drawing on modern French cuisine and local and organic ingredients to craft in-house breakfasts and lunches as well as catered meals. In quarters ornamented with photographs and oil paintings, guests can dine on handcrafted yogurt parfaits, homemade soups, or smoked turkey, brie, and apple sandwiches. The catering arm of the outfit fashions hors d'oeuvres, à la carte items, and boxed lunches for private events, as well as corporate breakfast and lunch dishes, which distract employees from the daily grind of prank faxing competitor companies.