Indianapolis is quickly becoming one of the hottest food cities in America. A destination for true foodies who are interested in everything from fine dining to food trucks. This column will put the spotlight on one of these local hot spots to help get the word out and share in the love of all things food.
Review by Dustin Heller (@eatindywatchindie on Instagram)
'Tis the season for giving thanks! So I thought it might nice to list three things that I’m thankful for this year as a Hoosier foodie:
1. The booming Indy food scene. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better...
2. My foodie friends and the great people of Indy
3. The Cunningham Restaurant Group (CRG)
CRG are the embodiment of everything that makes Indy such a great foodie city. All of their restaurants are exceptional and the people they employ are truly remarkable. So, in the spirit of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, the Foodie Spotlight is paying a visit to an Italian kitchen that specializes in fresh coastal cuisine. What? The Pilgrims and Indians weren’t feasting on seafood and pasta?
Nesso, CRG’s first foray into Italian dining, is located at 339 South Delaware Street inside the stunning Alexander Hotel. The immaculate interior of the restaurant is the absolute perfect spot for any special occasion. You could lift the place right up and plop it down in the heart of New York City and it would fit right in. If romance is in your cards, look no further.
The food at Nesso is masterfully curated by Executive Chef Layton Roberts and Executive Pastry Chef Hattie McDaniel. The menu contains a wide array of fresh pasta dishes, seafood, locally-sourced meats and vegetables, and decadent desserts that are all sure to please. Nesso sets out to provide an experience of local food, wine, and hospitality that you could only find in the Hoosier state. All this talk is making me hungry -- I better get into my four “can’t miss” items from the menu at Nesso:
Rigatoni: For some reason, I can’t say the word “rigatoni” without using a thick Italian accent like I’m in a mobster movie or something. Anyway, about the dish: rigatoni is a tubular pasta that typically has little ridges which help to trap in the delicious sauce. Besides that, they are really fun to eat. Enough about the pasta, I really want to talk about the Short Rib Ragù that accompanies it. This Ragù is thick, savory, and loaded with the most tender short rib you’ll ever put in your mouth. Toss in some peas for a little sweetness and some nice color and then finish it off with parmesan, mint, and basil. Ehhh, order the Rigatoni and the fuggedaboutit!
Linguini Nero: If you’re in the market for an Instaworthy (posting a picture on Instagram for those less tech savvy) experience, then the Linguini Nero is the just the dish for you. The linguini is dyed black using squid ink which adds a bit of a briny flavor all the while making it look really cool. As different as that may be, it’s not even the best part -- check out that big slab of octopus right on top! If you’ve never had octopus, it has a very delicate flavor and, as you could imagine, a chewy texture. It’s quite delightful! The rest of the dish is comprised of succulent shrimp, oil-cured tomato, and garlic and herbs. A dish whose taste truly measures up to its beauty.
Spinach Pappardelle: Many of the dishes at Nesso are so intricate that the pasta itself is more of a complimentary piece than the star. Not the spinach pappardelle! The Bolognese sauce is a thing of beauty in and of itself, but this dish is all about the pappardelle. This isn’t cooked spinach served with pappardelle pasta. No, the spinach is blended right into the dough. How else do you think it gets that irresistible green color? The pappardelle is perfectly cooked al dente and tossed in the aforementioned Bolognese and then finished with fresh Parmesan. Voila!
Cheese Ravioli: If it’s not abundantly clear by now, I’m really into the pasta at Nesso. That’s 4 for 4! You might be thinking to yourself, 'Cheese Ravioli? Is that off the kids’ menu?' Of course not, this is an adult version of a gourmet cheese ravioli. The ravioli are stuffed with pecorino pepato which is an Italian sheep’s milk cheese that is laced with peppercorns. The cheese has a very strong, salty flavor which pairs nicely with the chicken and mushroom. I only wish my kids would eat this dish, but I guess that just means more for me.
You didn’t think I was going to get out of here without mentioning the fabulous desserts by Chef Hattie McDaniel, did you? Order the Bombolino and thank me later…