NICHOLAS GATTONE knew he was taking a chance by putting braised rabbit casarecce on his menu at Good Omen, the Zionsville restaurant he opened with his mother in August. The dish was a slow burn, Gattone says. But “getting people out of their comfort zone” proved a worthy challenge. The rabbit, lean and flavorful like the tenderest bits of shredded chicken thigh, shares a shallow bowl with chunks of green olive and, yes, carrot. The casarecce, sturdy pasta in the shape of tiny loose scrolls, is made in-house to deliver the coveted springy chew of hand-rolled noodles. Even though my own comfort zone has a very wide berth, I didn’t know what to expect from a rabbit-centric dish at a sweet, Northern Italian spot deep in an Indianapolis suburb. Certainly not this fresh and simple presentation that tastes like an earthy riff on chicken and noodles, comfortingly delicious to the last bite. greater appreciation for what it takes to bring that protein to the plate.” One reason why Italian cooking is so famously good, Gattone says, is because it puts an emphasis on the farmer and the rancher. “The chef’s job is to get your hands on the best ingredients available and then not fuck them up,” he says.
That guiding principle of simplicity plays out in a gorgeous salmon filet served skin-up over white beans and a few spears of asparagus; in the crispy chicken Milanese that comes with a charred lemon that you can squeeze over your meal; and in a massive New York strip served sliced—its middle pieces the perfect warm red—and topped with brown butter béarnaise that amplifies the meat’s husky richness.
That noble $62 steak arrives generously portioned for sharing and is (by Midwestern standards) the only thing on Good Omen’s “shareable” menu that a person would be inclined to share. I guess it would be technically feasible, sensible even, to divvy up the slices of grill-marked bread that come with either a thick smear of smoked trout pate, the cultured butter and honey pairing, or a house ricotta that tastes amazing but is almost too wet to spread (scoop instead). Diners can easily pass around the little bowl of fried olives stuffed with sausage that pop open in the mouth, bursting with umami. They might graze communally on beef tartare bound with quail egg or the charcuterie board of Smoking Goose meats, artisanal dairy, and marmalade. “We suggest ordering family-style and sharing several things,” our impeccably informed server advised us.
We heeded her advice, then awkwardly took turns slicing off bites of chicken Milanese, wondering if we were doing it right. We also shared decadent duck Bolognese tossed with creste di gallo pasta (shaped like frilled macaroni crescents) that I would have preferred to keep all to myself. The duck’s lusciously heavy undertones, combined with the dense texture of the pasta, melt in the mouth. It is one of Gattone’s favorites, a meal inspired by the traditional duck Bolognese served in Venice. “It’s what the locals eat while the tourists are eating seafood,” says the Hoosier chef, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute who went on to work at Chicago’s Michelin-starred Spiaggi before traveling to Italy to further his culinary knowledge.
Gattone returned to Indiana after his father became ill and the pandemic made him reconsider his career trajectory. He then opened this cozy 60-seat restaurant with a small menu of antipasto, three pastas, three meats, and a few add-ons, such as a soul-soothing jota soup with sauerkraut and white beans. The wine list is as brief as the menu, but it covers the essentials—a reflection of Gattone’s years in beverage and hospitality management.
The chef’s mother and Good Omen’s co-owner, Diane Gattone, works the host stand, warmly escorting guests to their tables, chatting excitedly about the menu. She’s a former Methodist pastor with a background in counseling, and this is her first restaurant job. “But she’s always been a champion schmoozer,” Gattone says. That makes her uniquely qualified to hype her son’s culinary skills, though it’s not a tough sell.
65 Boone Village, Zionsville, 317-973-5024
Sun, Wed–Thu 3–9 p.m., Fri–Sat 3–10 p.m.
Simple but spot-on Northern Italian cuisine with smart wine pairings
Green olives stuffed with sausage and fried to a crisp, duck Bolognese, and a glass of crisp Field Recordings Skins orange wine