Photo by Tony Valainis
Pizzi fell in love with eateries on walks with his parents in La Spezia, his birthplace, on Italy’s western coast. “I loved one in particular. I would make a scene until my parents took me inside,” says Pizzi. “It wasn’t even the food. It was the clanging of the plates and silverware, the sounds in the kitchen. It’s a concert that hypnotizes me.”
The family moved to Indiana when Pizzi was a teenager, and in 1979, he opened Ambrosia, the only restaurant he’s hung onto his entire career (though he just sold a controlling interest in it to his daughter Anna). Blu Point made a brief appearance next door to Ambrosia in the ’80s but closed after a few years so Pizzi could focus on other projects. He decided to revisit the concept recently when he realized Ambrosia customers were as excited about the oysters on the menu as they were the house favorite: spinach-and-cheese ravioli. Pro tip No. 1: “Most people think you have to just swallow an oyster,” says Pizzi. “It’s okay to chew it. You get more flavor from the ocean. I’m in love with anything that comes out of the sea.”
Hungry for a taste of the sea? Here’s Pizzi’s recipe for Calamarata di Mare, or pasta with calamari and shrimp.