Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel from the road, this time in Indianapols. —The Mgmt.
13190 Hazel Dell Parkway, Carmel IN 46033 (map); 317-925-0765; pizzologyindy.com
Pizza Style: Neapolitan
The Skinny: Very good, creative toppings on a very solid crust; balance issues need to be addressed
Price: 13-inch pizzas start at $11
Notes: No delivery but carryout is available
The pizza revolution took a little longer to hit Indianapolis than a substantial swath of the country, but it has spread to Circle City in the last year. I'm not suggesting Indy's been devoid of good pizza; local classics like Maria's (Slice review here) have been putting out excellent pizzas for decades. But until recently, there haven't places that have put quality ingredients front and center while openly trying to make something more aligned with traditional Neapolitan pizza.
Pizzology, which opened its doors at the end of 2009, sits in a small strip mall kitty-corner from a golf course in the wealthy suburb of Carmel, immediately north of Indianapolis. While the location might engender skepticism in those of us prejudiced to favor all things urban, the reality is a good oven, good ingredients, and a passion for the final product can come together anywhere. And under the leadership of restaurateur Neal Brown, all three are present at Pizzology.
The pizza menu at Pizzology includes seven red pizzas (Pizza Rossa), seven white pizzas (Pizza Bianca), and a build-your-own option for diners who want more control over what comes out of the wood-burning oven. The restaurant relies heavily on local ingredients and, as a result, the menu changes with the seasons. I started with the Homemade Sausage from the red side of the menu, a pie topped with fennel sausage, fennel, onion, and Peppadew peppers.
The Peppadew peppers provided, by a wide margin, the most prominent flavor on the pizza. The peppers are sweet, spicy and pickled, and added a ton of flavor to the pizza. I enjoyed the combination of flavors from the peppers, but they did throw the pie's balance out of whack.
The fennel-studded homemade sausage was delivered somewhere between chunks and a crumble. Even the tiny bits were moist and chewy, and they really worked well. The onion and shaved fennel were both good additions, especially the latter which added some very light crunch to each bite. The sauce, unfortunately, was way too bland and had about as little tomato flavor as I've had in a pizzeria so committed to quality ingredients. On the other hand, the mozzarella, made in-house out of curds from a local creamery, Trader's Point, was one of the better versions I've sampled in some time.
From the white side of the menu, I opted for the Old Kentucky Rome, which is topped with prosciutto from Kentucky, roasted figs, Taleggio cheese, and spinach. Individually, I really liked the prosciutto and the cheese, both of which had really strong flavors. But together, the combination delivered way too much salt.
The pizza was topped with a handful of delicious roasted figs and some spinach that I appreciated even though it wasn't noted on the menu. Those ingredients weren't drowned out by the salt, but they did not have a prayer of keeping the pizza balanced. I applaud the creativity behind the pizza, but speaking as one who has a high tolerance for salt, something needs to be done to smooth out the flavors to make it work.
The crust at Pizzology is made from wild yeast, spring water and Caputo "00" flour. The result is a noticeably yeasty bread that has a crisp and almost crunchy exterior, but with a very chewy interior. Given the toppings on my two pizzas, the lack of salt in the dough was not a big deal, but I suspect it would be a small problem on the pizzas that are less aggressively topped.
From the wood-burning oven to the various housemade toppings to the heavy use of local ingredients, Neal Brown and his team are unquestionably committed to perfecting their craft. A couple of tweaks are still necessary but they're already delivering what a lot of locals say is the best in town. Based on my limited experience in Indianapolis, I'm inclined to agree.