Strip malls. There is something about restaurants being in strip malls – anyone agree? They are everywhere in Indianapolis, ranging from formal to casual. Some people won’t even give these a try because of the location. Unfortunately, I sometimes don’t always remember these options because of the strip mall concept. But one night, I remembered. I remembered a restaurant where we had a really great breakfast a few years ago. And then I remembered they also serve dinner. Hubs agreed, it was time to check out A2Z Cafe for dinner.
Sadly, when we arrived on a Saturday evening, there was no one there. It was maybe 7pm and we were the only patrons. Another couple did arrive immediately after us, but that was it. I began to wonder if it was because of the mall concept or the food, but I was committed to trying.
Our service was quick and friendly from the one server in the restaurant. I know she didn’t have any other tables besides the two of us, but I like to think the service would have excelled all the same if the restaurant was packed. After reviewing the menu, I was also reminded that the main theme of the restaurant is Italian. I was craving pasta, so I knew this is where I needed to be. Having a special soft spot for goat cheese, we settled on splitting a goat cheese salad as a starter. Once again, the service was prompt and the salad was warm upon delivery. We were presented with a plate of spinach, dressed with a warm balsamic reduction. Slightly sweet, tangy and intense, the reduction was paired with tender figs. I loved the subtle crunch of the fig and the concentrated flavor of fall. This was paired perfectly with the hazelnut crusted goat cheese. There was quite a large portion of goat cheese that we were able to share. The hazelnuts were slightly fried and the goat cheese was warm and creamy. Everything about this salad was great.
Hubs had ordered the lobster ravioli, which was on special. I had a quick bite, but it was after he had salted the dish. Because of that, I thought the sauce was extremely salty. Hubs did agree, he thought it needed something but the salt was too much. Besides the seasoning factor on hand, the sauce was extremely rich as expected. Lobster didn’t shine as a main ingredient either, but the pasta was fresh in taste. An oregano heavy hand took care of the bread, though it was still good to slather up the sauce. Once again, I only had one bite, but hubs thought the dish was good, just too rich to finish.
On the other hand, my dish was everything I wanted and more. The pasta of my penne con gorgonzola was boiled al dente and soaked up the creamy and cheesy sauce of the dish. The sauce was rich, but cut with the saltiness of the apple smoked bacon, I couldn’t get enough of it. The bacon was in small pieces so that each and every bite had a taste. Complimenting the whole dish was the slightly grilled taste from the chicken, which was extremely tender and portioned well. I thought I could have kept eating this dish, but the portion was just right as towards the end, the richness did catch up to me. But I slathered the bread with the sauce and literally cleaned my bowl clean.
As mentioned, the brunch we had here back in the day was delicious and why we returned. The dinner definitely stood up to my expectations as it fulfilled my Italian taste for the evening. It was creamy and rich-everything that I had wanted. Two entrees, a salad appetizer, beer and glass of red wine left us with a bill just under $50 prior to tip. The food was worth every penny. I left that evening with a full stomach and a reminder to not forget the great food of A2Z that evening.
Just a side note – the owner of A2Z also owns Carmel Burgers. Two very different concepts, and though I wasn’t a huge fan of the burgers, I’m a big fan of the Cafe.
A2Z Cafe * 4705 East 96th Street * Indianapolis, 46240 * 317.569.9349