Quick bites in Indianapolis: Napolese Pizzeria and IMA Cafe


A few weeks ago I set off on an 1,800 mile road trip to see my favorite musician, Stewart Copeland, perform twice with his new “Off The Score” ensemble. Yes, I just as dedicated to the music I love as I am to good food and cooking! The first stop on my journey would be in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I’d have time to grab one lunch on my own and then dinner with some of my friends who had also taken the trip for the show.

Unfortunately, the beginning of my road trip coincided with the development of an extremely painful tooth abscess. Not what I needed when I was hoping to enjoy some good food on the road. So I had to be careful about what I ordered and tried to eat for several days. Even so, I managed to enjoy some tasty (and whenever possible, soft) bites along the way.

Lunch in Indianapolis was a simple yet satisfying soup and sandwich combo at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I can’t visit a new city without visiting their art collection, and here they had some lovely works by favorites of mine including Bouguereau, Bellini, Caravaggio and Gauguin. It was well worth a few hours exploring and I only wish I’d had the time to explore more than just their European and American art collections. In any event, I had lunch at  the IMA Cafe in the museum: a combo of their Signature Creamy Tomato Soup with Toasted Cheese and Basil Crouton and the Open-faced Spinach Artichoke Melt.

Soup and Salad Combo at the IMA Cafe in Indianapolis.

For $10, it was just perfect; soothing and warm, great on a cold day when it was still trying to snow outside. Also it about about all I could make myself eat given the amount of pain I was in at the time.

For dinner, my friends and I had already decided on checking out the Napolese Pizzeria location at 49th & Penn, because it was near the Butler University campus where our concert would be taking place. Napolese’s menu and photos of their pizzas had caught my eye as soon as I’d been investigating where we might meet for dinner, and my one local friend endorsed them as a worthy place to check out.

So we got there a little before opening at 5pm; this particular Napolese location does not take reservations and yes, the small dining room sure filled up fast! The look inside the dining room is quite inviting and rustic with dark wood tables and chairs, and large windows letting in plenty of light from outside.

At Napolese the focus is definitely first and foremost on the pizza; you can build your own from their list of varied ingredients (everything from classic pepperoni and roasted peppers to quail eggs, braised short rib, and charred leeks). Or you can try one of their specialty pies which change seasonally and focus on locally-sourced quality produce, meats and cheeses. Napolese also offers a variety of tempting starters, salads and soups, some of which I would have loved to have tried if we’d had more time—and if my tooth wasn’t bothering me so much!

So we stuck to a bottle of wine from their predominantly Italian list,  and an individual pizza for each of the three of us. My one friend got the Buffalo Margherita Pizza, after originally ordering the regular Margherita but our waiter urged her to try the Buffalo one. I asked him if it was indeed made with water buffalo milk, as it should be with that name, and he seemed confused and said it was just mozzarella from a farm in Buffalo? Hmm. In any event, my friend said it was a fine pizza; I forgot to get a photo of it. I did get one of my delicious squash, goat cheese, arugula and honey pizza. I loved the sweetness of the honey with the goat cheese, and the crust was chewy yet soft enough that I managed to eat without too much pain. (In fact, I had my leftover slices the next morning for breakfast.)

Napolese pizza with squash

My other friend got the pizza with kale, squash again, and the short rib. This was another great combination from the one slice I sampled.

Napolese pizza with kale

We finished off with some coffee before braving the cold weather again, heading out a little after 6pm for our show. Our total with tip was $105. I would definitely love to go back to Napolese again if I end up in Indianapolis in the future—and hopefully when I’m feeling better so I could more thoroughly enjoy their menu.

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