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 Occasions Divine planted its roots in a trio of historic locales, the event-hosting company made sure to keep most of the buildings' original décor and architecture intact while adding modern kitchens and other amenities. The staff orchestrates an ever-changing combination of themed dinners, wine and beer pairings, multiple-course meals, performances, and art classes.
Signature events, such as 10-course meals and dinners with magic shows, occur within The Propylaeum, a manicured Victorian clubhouse and historic landmark built in 1890. Guests mingle in meeting rooms, private guest rooms, and a third-floor ballroom while surrounded by period-accurate décor enhanced by glow-in-the-dark area rugs. An intimate house built in 1868 hosts Serenity events, including educational family etiquette dinners, which invite patrons to enter through antique doors, traverse vintage carpeting, and learn the difference between salad forks and back scratchers. A communal table presents light meals and traditional english tea, and reconstructed outdoor gardens let patrons reenact scenes from crime-thriller reboots of Romeo and Juliet. Serendipity 2 events convene at The Propylaeum's original carriage house, which did a stint as a children's museum starting in 1925. Parties ramble through the main floor and balcony under tall ceilings and light from antique windows.
Stepping into The Sweet Tooth Fairy shop is like walking into another era: round tables and high-backed chairs surround an old-fashioned soda fountain, and oldies music plays softly nearby. Pale-blue walls and white crown molding stand behind a glass case full of sweet treats, which are baked daily and earned proprietor Megan Faulkner Brown two appearances on The Rachael Ray Show—one when she was still baking in her basement kitchen, and the next three years later, when her business had grown to nine locations.
Megan uses the "most ordinary" ingredients to whip up her extraordinary pastries, which include chocolate-chip and iced oatmeal cookies, brownies, lemon bars, and a variety of cupcakes and full-grown cakes. Signature cakebites don coats of chocolate or white chocolate flecked with sprinkles. Flavors of baked goods rotate monthly, with some favorites available on a daily basis. Gluten-free options are available, as are frosting shots designed to save time usually spent licking every drop of frosting off the top of a full-size cake.
At Ichiban Sushi Bar & Sammy's Asian Cuisine, the kitchen preaches inclusion. Chefs stir-fry plates of pad thai along with mongolian beef, and sushi experts arrange artful rolls of fresh fish behind a glimmering black bar. Collectively, this culinary ensemble crafts a menu of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai traditions served amid the warm light of suspended lanterns.
For dinner, patrons peruse everything from homestyle tofu to the Dreaming duck—a pan-fried duck breast served with basil sauce. House sauces bring signature flairs to other dishes as well, with the chef’s specialty sauce drizzled over the OE sushi roll’s spicy crab, green onions, roe, and lobster. Other sushi options threaten to overwhelm the indecisive with maki, nigiri, sashimi, and combinations between. Textures collide in the golden cheese roll's mix of shrimp tempura and cream cheese, whereas the volcano roll dresses a california roll with spicy crayfish instead of baking soda and vinegar. Sips of sake and imported Japanese beers wash down bites from any culinary tradition, leaving mouths ready for desserts of green-tea ice cream.
Though Vito Provolone's has been around for 17 years, its tradition of hospitality stretches back to 1948—the year that Vito Gramaglia returned to his hometown of Modugno, Italy, from America. Once there, he began a decades-long charitable campaign, raising funds for the orphanages and disenfranchised populations. His contributions eventually earned him a Gold Star of Italy from the government.
Two generations later, Jim DeCamp Jr. honors his grandfather with a restaurant that bears his name. Inside, the familial and welcoming spirit that Vito was famous for still reigns, but it's been joined by a commitment to authentic Italian cooking.
Specialty pizzas encourage sharing, and build-your-own pasta entrees allow for personal touches, such as add-ons of Italian sausage or meatballs that look like your favorite celebrity's head if you squint. Sips of domestic and imported beers and wine follow bites of chicken marsala or tilapia in a lemon-caper sauce.
King David Dogs' original hot dog, highly praised by Nuvo, was originally developed by the Hene Meat Company in the 1940s and populated local grocery stores and delis until the '90s. As an effort to bring back his family's business, Brent Joseph, William Hene's grandson, re-created the Hene recipe, and thus, King David Dogs was born. To complement the celebrated encased creations, the cooks dream up elaborate topping combos and have been rewarded for their creativity with Best Hot Dog awards from Metromix and CityVoter.
The menu totes flavors from all over the map, from the garden-topped Chicago dog to the Hula dog, which is laden with pineapple relish and will shake its hips if asked nicely. Other versions support fried eggs and chili or pay homage to the state fair in a cocoon of corn dough. Also available are authentic italian beef sandwiches and during the winter months, homemade chicken and dumplings.