Maybe before you get down to practicing your own pasta form, you could take a real-life lesson from one of the pro chefs around town. Use this as a handy guide for learning all the perfect pasta ways.
Mama Carolla's Old Italian in Broad Ripple is, hands-down, the most romantic restaurant in the city according to NUVO readers in each year's Best of Indy poll. From the twinkling lights to heavy wood accents, all housed in what actually feels like a house, there's something cozy and refreshing about a visit to Mama's. The reasonable prices mean it's affordable for two, even with a good bottle of wine to complement the traditional Italian menu. When the weather permits, take your date to the patio dining room for an even more romantic evening. (And don't forget about their new café next door for breakfast — Good Morning Mama's!)
1031 E. 54th St., 259-9412, mamacarollas.com
Authentic Italian favorites on 86th Street. Chef Mario DiRosa hails from Naples, Italy, creating Italian cuisine like the famed lasagna with veal meatballs. Rumor has it that Amalfi Ristorante makes the best eggplant parmigiana in the city. Be sure to try the gnocchi, hand-rolled stuffed potato dumplings. The eclectic menu also features a wide variety of steak, seafood, chicken, veal, pasta, wine, beer, and spirits. Leave the kids at home: Only 18-year-olds and older are allowed in this restaurant.
1351 W. 86th St., 253-4034, amalfiristoranteitaliano.com
The new location on College may be spiffy, but the quality of the fare here is consistently wonderful. Thoughtfully prepared and smartly presented for a reasonable price, Ravioli della Mamma is composed of large squares of fresh spinach and cheese ravioli served with a pesto cream sauce. Rich yet delicate, creamy but never cloying, it is certainly one of the top vegetarian entrees in the city.
5903 College Ave., 255-3096, ambrosiaindy.com
Iozzo's Garden of Italy
Somewhat off the beaten path, Iozzo's boasts one of the coolest outdoor dining areas in town: A secluded courtyard behind the 19th century brick building, shaded by trees and enlivened by flowers and plants. The interior doesn't lack for old-world charm, either. Quality is consistently good. And you get a sense that they know what they're doing in the kitchen. The wine list is quite extensive, with a good number of well-chosen, moderately-priced selections and a few surprises: Shafer Hillside, anyone?
946 S. Meridian St., 974-1100, iozzos.com
J. Razzo's Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
Occupying a highly desirable location facing Meridian Street at 126th Street, J. Razzo's is about as visible as a restaurant can get in Carmel. Service is professional and calmly efficient; the atmosphere is cool and relaxing; there's no Sinatra on the soundtrack. So why hasn't J. Razzo's become a Carmel destination? Quite simply, the food, which ranges from from somewhat better than good to less than mediocre. The cioppino, an Italian fish stew, is properly cooked and nicely spiced, but the veal parmigiano was slathered with a pasty, processed-tasting tomato sauce, and the gnocchi was cooked to a porridge-like consistency.
12501 N. Meridian St., 844-9333, jrazzos.com
Relying on Italian hospitality and good food, Milano Inn has stood watch as Indianapolis has evolved. It was founded during the Great Depression, flourished as manufacturers prospered during the 1940s and survived as subdivisions lured families to the suburbs starting in the 1950s. It has seen the rise and fall of Market Square Arena and the Hoosier Dome. Skyscrapers, world-class hotels and a resurgence in urban living has revitalized downtown, and, as always, Milano Inn has welcomed everyone with warmth, and tried and true family recipes.
231 S. College Ave., 264-3585, milanoinn.com
Rustic Neapolitan pizza is becoming more and more in demand here in the States, and this Café Patachou offshoot is happy to oblige. It's a cozy pizzeria with all the style of a classic Italian restaurant. Build a pizza yourself or choose from some winning combinations like the BLT (bacon, caramelized leeks and taleggio) or PFG (pancetta, roasted fingerling potatoes and gorgonzola). To satisfy your sweet tooth, try the Nutella Stuffed Pizza or the rotating selection of Patachou's own premium gelato.
Multiple Indianapolis locations, napolesepizzeria.com
Napoli Villa Ristorante Italiano
Family owned and operated since 1962, Napoli Villa Ristorante Italiano is one of Indy's top, locally owned Italian restaurants. Beginning as a small pizzeria, it has grown into a full-service restaurant.
758 Main St. (Beech Grove), 783-4122, napoliindy.com
Today, one of the many measures of a hotel is the quality of its restaurant. This Italian restaurant, located on the ground floor of the new, blue JW Marriott Hotel downtown, is a welcome addition to the Indianapolis dining scene. Osteria Pronto breathes new life into everyone's favorite cuisine, packing it with flavor and freshness. It has adopted the cost-conscious policy of offering whole and half sizes for its pasta dishes. Reservations are recommended.
10 S. West St., 860-5800, jwindy.com/dining/osteriapronto