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February Foodie: Francesca Pizzi

When Francesca Pizzi lamented the dearth of Italian restaurants in downtown Indy, her father, restaurateur Gino Pizzi, offered her some sage advice: “Why don’t you open one yourself?” As is so often true, father knows best. While Francesca has no formal culinary training, she grew up doing homework and taking naps inside her family’s beloved Broad Ripple standard, Ambrosia. Later, Pizzi helped her grandfather stuff tortellini and prepare many of the other Italian-American classics on the menu. She moved to Nashville for a few years to work corporate jobs, but she eventually came back. “I realized the restaurant business was in my blood,” she says.

Late this winter, Pizzi plans to put that family know-how into practice at Maialina, in the former Smokehouse on Shelby location in the Fountain Square Theatre Building. “It’s a beautiful historic building, and we want to keep some of the old stuff, especially the tile floor,” says Pizzi, who hopes to display some of the previously loved kitchen equipment, such as a range hood her crew found during the renovation.

She plans to crib several dishes from Ambrosia, including lasagna and tiramisu made from her mother’s recipes, as well as some of her favorite Ligurian wines, local beers, and a house negroni.

Italian for “little pig,” Pizzi’s nickname growing up, Maialina will offer a special Sunday meal. “Our biggest thing we wanted to keep is the tradition of family mealtime,” she says.

Click here to get Francesca’s family recipe for the Ambrosia meatball.

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.
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