Indianapolis: Undercooking Stands in the Way of Excellence at Napolese

Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel from the road, this time in Indianapolis. The Mgmt.

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[Photographs: Daniel Zemans]

Napolese

114 East 49th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46205 (map); 317-925-0765‎; cafepatachou.com
Pizza Style: Artisanal American
The Skinny: Excellent concept and high-quality ingredients were not enough to overcome undercooked pizza
Price:13" pizzas range from $9 to $14

After Pizzology (reviewed here) opened its doors in late 2009 and was an immediate hit, the local restaurant world had proof that Indianapolisans Indianapolitans people from Indianapolis were ready to move beyond the mediocrity of Bazbeaux's (reviewed here) and embrace artisanal pizza.

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Last summer Martha Hoover, the force behind the Café Patachou empire, saw the developing market and opened up Napolese next door to her first restaurant on the north side of Indianapolis. Given that Café Patachou is one of the most well-loved restaurants in Indianapolis, it's not surprising that Napolese has been a huge success. When I checked it out two weeks ago, there was a wait by 6:00 PM.

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The Buffalo Margherita was topped with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil as well as roasted grape tomatoes. It was clear from the very pale crust that the pizza could have used some more time in the gas-powered Wood Stone oven. Even with that flaw, the flavors on the pizza were still quite good.

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The creamy buffalo mozzarella reasserted its argument as the ultimate pizza cheese and was sufficiently melted. I am morally opposed to shredded basil on a pizza; it's visually unappealing and often supplies insufficient herbiness due to being cut long before it's put on a pizza. Fortunately, the basil at Napolese was still vibrant enough to punch up the pizza. The double dose of tomatoes, fresh sauce and extra tangy roasted tomatoes, made for a seriously delicious tomato taste that carried what was a very flavorful pizza.

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The Meridian Kessler comes with Italian sausage, aged provolone and whole mushrooms. Provolone, like mozzarella, is a pasta filata cheese from Southern Italy. Provolone is generally not as creamy as mozzarella, but aged versions like the one at Napolese tend to have a nice sharp edge to them that works very well on pizza. The sausage was chewy and fatty, but it was seasoned with a light hand. A benefit of the mild sausage was that the whole fresh mushrooms were able to come though and make a really well-balanced pizza.

On both pizzas I sampled, the toppings were well thought out and quite delicious. Unfortunately, the lack of time these pies spent in the oven did irreparable harm to the overall experience. The Meridian Kessler got some nice spotting but it was still too chewy. Worse, the crust on the Buffalo Margherita, pictured on the right, was not cooked all the way through. The crust tasted like perfectly fine fresh bread, though a little more salt would have been nice, but the doughiness was so distracting that the flavor was hard to focus on.

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There's no question that a badly undercooked pizza is a significant problem, but on the bright side it's one that's relatively to fix. Had I received fully cooked pizzas, I would have written a glowing review of Napolese. There are a number of more traditional pizzas on the menu, but the little twists I experienced like roasted tomatoes and provolone in place of mozzarella have me excited about a return visit.

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