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
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.