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This pizza 'experience' worth the trip to Carmel

May 26, 2010

One of the few things I remember from my undergraduate business studies is that if you want to succeed in retail or restaurant the most important rule is LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. Some places try to save money on rent and move ahead with the mistaken concept that their product will attract the customer. Even with a superior product this strategy is risky. In our fickle society, convenience often wins over quality, thereby leaving the consumer to choose from a pool of mediocrity.

While I’m sure Pizzology’s storefront rent isn’t cheap, the amateur commercial real estate agent in me is quite sure some alternate storefront property in Carmel demands a price superior to this unassuming little strip mall at 131st Street and Hazel Dell Road. Tucked away in the corner of this little plaza is Pizzology, a place that boldly and successfully proves my business professor wrong.

Pizzology isn’t your average pizza joint. It’s more like a pizza experience. Voted 2007 Chef of the Year by Indianapolis Monthly, Neal Brown of the former gem, L’Explorateur, and his wife, Lindy, opened this venture serving Neapolitan craft pizza like the kind you would find in Naples, Italy. Their cheese and sausages are homemade, and their dough is made with wild yeast, spring water, and Caputo Pizzeria “00” flour. The pies are then baked in an 800-degree, wood-burning oven resulting in a crust that is extremely thin yet crisp and durable, and somehow light and airy all in the same pizza.

I’ve dined here twice, each time for lunch. I once made the feeble attempt to try to eat there during the dinner hour, but the crowd generated too long of a wait. My first visit included my wife, Amy, and our three children, along with my mother and her companion, both visiting from Florida, and my brother and niece, visiting from Illinois. We sampled a large portion of the menu with this crowd.

Upon entering the restaurant you are met with a beaming hostess and hip but clean-lined décor. To the right is a small, full-service bar, and a newly added screened porch for friendly weather dining. Near the back of this small restaurant is an open-concept kitchen, flanked by a counter and stools for patrons to sit, dine and watch the kitchen staff craft their magic. To the left is an additional dining area while lively but non-offensive music fills the entire establishment.

Amy ordered an Italian Chop Salad, consisting of romaine, prosciutto, Gorgonzola and tomatoes. Finished with a citronette dressing that stole the show, Amy gave this salad a rave review. Having sampled it, I concurred. A perplexing balance of citrus, oil, and vinegar flavors, this quality salad foreshadowed what was yet to come.

My mother ordered the daily risotto special. Not many restaurants have the guts to even offer risotto as it can be both tricky and time-consuming to prepare. This place not only offers risotto, but it offers a different variety daily. I admittedly do not remember what flavor they served that day, but I do remember it was cooked to perfection.

We ordered three pizzas, each with the remarkable crust discussed above and christened with quality ingredients. We had the homemade sausage pizza, laced with fennel, onion, fennel sausage, and roasted sweet peppers. Additionally, we had a Sicilian eggplant pizza with eggplant, mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and capers. Lastly, the kids chose a homemade pepperoni pizza to complement their spaghetti and meatballs and buttered pasta.

The sausage was littered with fennel, the way Italian sausage should be. Put capers on anything and I’ll give it rave reviews, but I have a sneaking suspicion even without them the eggplant pizza would stand out.

Have you ever been to a pizza place that made its own pepperoni? ’Nuf said.

Tie all this in with the sugary sweet and loudly flavored San Marzano tomatoes and you will find this out-of-the-way place is worth the trip.

My second visit was a solo affair. The lunch special was a soft drink, soup or salad, and a personal Napoli pizza made of mozzarella cheese, those kick-&*$ tomatoes, and oregano. I ordered it and found consistently supreme quality, all for $7.63, including tax.

Pizzology uses local ingredients whenever possible. In addition to the staples, it offers craft beers from places like Indy’s own Sun King Brewery and the popular Mad Anthony brand from Fort Wayne. Lindy Brown is famous for her wine palate and is in fact a Certified Sommelier so trust the wine list, after court please.

Pizzology, 13190 Hazel Dell Parkway, Carmel; (317) 844-2550; www.pizzologyindy.com.•

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Fred Vaiana and Jennifer M. Lukemeyer practice at Voyles Zahn Paul Hogan & Merriman in Indianapolis, focusing in criminal defense. Vaiana is a 1992 graduate of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Lukemeyer earned her J.D. from Southern Methodist University in 1994 and is active in the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indianapolis Inn of Courts, and the Teen Court Program. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors.

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