Downtown destination: Osteria Pronto is a hit


There was a time when, for the most

part, restaurants in hotels seemed like afterthoughts. Designed

primarily for the convenience of guests, these establishments were

decent enough, but were rarely destinations.

This has changed over the course of the

past decade or so. Today, one of the many measures of a hotel is the

quality of its restaurant. It’s also the one part of a hotel

that the locals in any given city are likely to experience.

Osteria Pronto, the Italian restaurant

on the ground floor of the new, blue JW Marriott Hotel downtown, is a

tremendous addition to the Indianapolis dining scene. Helmed by chef

Rino Baglio and designer Carl A. Bruggemeier, Osteria Pronto

revivifies a favorite cuisine by packing it with flavor and


Located at the south end of the JW’s

somewhat overachieving lobby, Osteria Pronto greets you with a warm

bloom of Mediterranean-inspired light. The high-ceilinged room is

elegant and off-white with dark accents and marble trim. It’s a

convivial, roomy space, with great views of the city skyline

highlighted by the constant flow of passing traffic. The effect is

authoritatively urban, yet relaxed.

This feeling is carried through by the

invigorating focus of Osteria’s menu, which fits comfortably on

a single, albeit over-sized, sheet. We started with a traditional

staple, Bruschetta ($7). Our order consisted of four bite-size slices

of grilled Italian bread with tomato, basil, fresh garlic, extra

virgin olive oil and finely shaved Parmesan cheese, served on a long

white china tray, drizzled with thick Balsamic vinegar. The flavor

balance of these morsels was just about ideal. Although the diced

tomatoes were out of season, they were served highly chilled, which

provided a certain compensation that played well with the Balsamic’s

tang. Most important, the garlic really popped.

This dish was followed by a couple of

salads. I ordered the Insalata Della Osteria ($6), a generous bowl of

mixed greens and garlic croutons covered with finger-sized shavings

of Parmesan cheese and the house vinaigrette. The lettuces were given

a nice finish by the house dressing, which was creamy enough to pass

for a Caesar at some places, and given added sparkle thanks to ground

black pepper.

My partner really scored with the Pere

E Formaggio ($7), a salad combining mixed baby greens, fresh,

slightly cooked pear cubes and ground pecans with a delicate scoop of

Pecorino and goat cheese dressed with Balsamic vinegar and extra

virgin olive oil, with a large slice of herb crostini on the side.

This was a delicious winter salad with a bright array of slightly

sweet, tangy and rich sensations.

The wait staff at Osteria Pronto

appeared well prepared – our server was knowledgeable and

attentive, but never overbearing. When he told us that several of the

house recipes were handed down by Chef Baglio’s grandmother,

including the Spaghetti Vecchio Mondo, a Tuscan meat ball, including

veal and pork, served in tomato sauce, I took the plunge.

It should be noted that Osteria Pronto

has adopted the cost conscious policy of offering whole and

half-sizes for its pasta dishes. Thus, my dish was available for

either $11 or $15. I opted for the whole portion, which brought a

meatball the size of a lady’s fist floating in a vivid red

sauce flecked with bright green herbs. The combination of meats was

tender and complex to the taste; the sauce provided a subtle

complement to this abundant portion.

A half portion of Gnocchi ($9/$13)

constituted our other order. These handcrafted dumplings were

bite-size pillows served in a sauce made from heirloom tomatoes,

basil, imported buffalo mozzarella and Balsamic vinegar. The serving

size of this melt-in-your-mouth blend of boldness and finesse

provided plenty of satisfaction.

With its high design ambiance,

marvelous attention to flavor and remarkably affordable price point

for the quality on offer, Osteria Pronto has all the makings of go-to

downtown destination in its own right. The place fills up at night;

reservations are recommended.


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