Eating in Indy

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Recently, I spent an exploratory weekend in Indianapolis. By exploratory, I mean the weekend evolved into a food fest of restaurants, which we had not intended, but turned out to be gustatory, delicious fun!

We began Saturday by deciding to have a late lunch at Public Greens on the Monon Trail, in the now trendy Broad Ripple area. As it states on the website: Public Greens functions as an “Urban Kitchen, a farm to market urban cafeteria and microfarm.” I laud Public Greens for its inventive healthy food; its profits, vegetables, and herbs feed children through its Patachou Foundation. Check out Public Greens and the owner’s Patachou restaurants at

We love the ice cream at Brics, located steps away from Public Greens. The Brics Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station building used to be the train station in Indianapolis. It converted nicely into an ice creamery on the Monon Trail. I recommend the Yellow Cake Batter and the Pistachio!

Walking back to the car, we opted to enter Books and Brews, across the street from Public Greens. The concept was interesting with used bookstore for sale lining the walls. A portion of their sales goes to the Read Indy program. Lunch and dinner are served, as are small plates,

That night we felt a bit hungry, but we did not want a large meal. We opted for Panera. I had the Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken; my daughter had a bowl of Chicken Soup. We were both rather weary, so we ate our Panera take out at home so we could watch several episodes of Netflix’s The Ranch.

Sunday dawned sunny and relatively warm. After leisurely drinking mugs of matcha sencha tea and conversing, both of which we do frequently, we ventured out in quest of brunch. Wanting to try something distinctive, we threaded our way to Biscuits, a Mexican restaurant. The name fascinated me so much so that my daughter accused me of wanting to eat at Biscuits because of its name! She was right. My niece had recommended the eatery to my daughter; we figured it must be good. Its location was right off the Monon Trail, in a nondescript strip mall at 1036 Broad Ripple Avenue. Happily, Biscuits has not undergone gentrification like the rest of the area further up the road. Biscuits even lacks a website!

As we poured over the extensive menu, I asked our server why a Mexican restaurant is called Biscuits. She replied that the previous restaurant had been a biscuits and gravy diner. The owner decided to keep the Biscuits part of the name for its recognition factor. He had also expanded Biscuits to accommodate more customers. I felt like I was dining at an El Mercado restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, and that warmed my heart. I ordered Huevos Rancheros with a side of grits and butter. My daughter ordered a Biscuits Bowl with a side of fresh fruit. The food servings were plentiful and delicious. We ate slowly, savoring each bite, while taking in the liveliness of the place.

We then drove some blocks up Broad Ripple Avenue, parked the car, got out, and walked. One restaurant I want to try on my next visit is Taste of Havana. Across the avenue an Indian eatery also beckoned. We strolled along, turned on North College Avenue, where we entered HoiTea ToiTea [“Not Your Granny’s Tea Room”]. My daughter had picked up literature about this new tea room in March at the Home and Garden show in Indianapolis: Erstwhile tea aficionados are we; we felt compelled to explore HoiTea ToiTea! This tea emporium conducts tea-making classes, and sells all sorts of teas that the adventurous can mix. The café invites one to eat breakfast, lunch, and pastries. The Almond Amaretto tea called to me, as the Almond Amaretto Tea Latte did to my daughter. She ordered a Blackberry Lavender Macaroon, while I found the Nutella-filled croissant irresistible. We sat near the large windows overlooking the avenue. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we missed the free Indianapolis Orchestra Concert at the Library! Fortunately, there’s another concert in June!

Ciao for now.


The Wedding, Part 4: Dance, Dance, Dance!

Lauren's bridal bouquet with my mother's cameo and her mother's wedding dress lace -
Lauren’s bridal bouquet with my mother’s cameo and her mother’s wedding dress lace –

 By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Indeed, my niece Lauren and her Romeo [Justin, actually] tied the knot on June 8, 2013 at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church.  Happy tears, smiles, and wishes for wedded bliss abounded after Father Mike pronounced them “man and wife”.  After the pews had emptied of wedding guests, the photographer herded us back to the front of the Sacristy for family photos with the newlyweds.  The wedding planner and the photographer shepherded the bride, the groom, the five bridesmaids, and the five groomsmen on to the wedding trolley for photo shoots all over downtown Indianapolis.

I returned to the hotel on another trolley.  As I entered The Conrad’s foyer, I spied my aunts, uncles, and some of my cousins placing drink orders with a server.  Hastily I placed an order for a ginger ale just to whet my whistle, for the temperature had reached eighty-one degrees accompanied by humidity.  Cocktails were to be served in the Rhythm Discovery Center, across the street from The Conrad.  It was a most fascinating venue of rhythm history with spontaneous rhythm performances and flashing lights, which jarred me out of any weariness I might have otherwise felt.  After drinking a Sprite, at least I think that’s what it was, I gathered my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and we walked to The Indianapolis Artsgarden [this is the correct spelling!] for the wedding reception.  It had been three hours since I had last seen the bridal party.  However, they emerged from their extensive photo shoot intact, hungry and thirsty.  After the speeches and toasts had been made, the 250+ guests settled into a delicious sit down dinner, followed by cake and coffee.

Several weeks prior to The Wedding, Lauren phoned and asked me if I would let her use my mother’s cameo on her bridal bouquet.  The florist assured her that if the cameo could not be fastened securely, it would not be used.  I thought about how much my mother had loved Lauren, how she would have embraced Lauren and her new husband, how touched she would have been that Lauren wanted to include this exquisite cameo in her bouquet on her Wedding Day. Of course, I said yes.  Actually, I was moved to tears by Lauren’s request, for my late father had purchased the cameo for my late mother on a momentous trip to Italy our family had taken when I was sixteen-years-old. We had visited a cameo fabbrica outside of Naples, on our way to Pompeii.  Mama had been enthralled by the craftsmanship. The cameo was a prized possession of Mama’s.

Then the dancing began en force.  The live band, Endless Summer Band never stopped for breaks, though they did rotate their musicians in and out throughout the night.  We all danced like possessed maniacs; the music was that good, that foot-stomping, that adrenaline throbbingly great!  I haven’t danced that much since my graduate school days in the early 1980’s.  While there was an open bar, I imbibed only the soft drinks before the reception, a glass of champagne, and half-a-glass of vino.  Throughout the night I kept hydrated by downing glasses of water.  I simply was having fun to the hilt on the dance floor with multiple dance partners to fuzzy it up with alcohol, though I would have loved a Cosmopolitan!

Finally, my daughter-the-bridesmaid and I retired for the night, past the time for the end of the reception, only because after four hours, my dancing feet were screaming for respite.  I forced myself to shower and wash my hair, thinking that would help me sleep.  Besides, we had to rise and shine on Sunday for the 10:00 a.m. family brunch at The Conrad.  I must confess, when my iPhone4 alarm sounded at 8:30 a.m., I wanted to pound it into silence since I was so comatose I couldn’t find the phone right away.  My contact lens held my eyes open for the brunch.  Last hugs, kisses, and smiles were offered among us, as we scattered our separate ways hither and yon with the memories of a fabulous Wedding Weekend.

Ciao for now.

The Wedding, Part 3: “Goin’ to the Chapel…”

Lauren's getting married -
Lauren’s getting married –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

The wake-up alarm sounded all too soon last Saturday morning.  Yet the day dawned with golden sunshine set in dazzling blue skies.  On the late night heels of the rehearsal dinner the night before, came this morning’s call for scheduled professional makeup and hair appointments in Broad Ripple.  It is a rare day indeed that I imbibe coffee but I felt I had better partake of potent caffeine.  I wanted to be cognizant when my niece exchanged wedding vows with her worthy groom.  Fortunately, friends of the bride’s mother had provided nutritious breakfast food to help us jump-start the long wedding day.

We all emerged from the salon airbrushed and glamorous.  After scrutinizing myself in the mirror, I contemplated how an airbrushing device might not be a bad investment since it could, like vintage wine, help me improve with age.  The bride was the belle of the salon, as she should have been, for my niece, a beautiful young woman by any standard, glowed with happiness in her enhanced airbrushed state.  The wedding planner hustled our entourage back to The Conrad in Indianapolis to change into our wedding finery.  My daughter donned her JCrew Newport Navy bridesmaid dress, nude patent leather shoes, jewelry, and stuffed salon lip-gloss, brush, compact, and tissues into her new ivory jeweled dress clutch.  Off she went to the suite where Lauren the Bride and the bridesmaids were gathering for photos.  Soon the bridal party would board the wedding trolley to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church for the 2:30 p.m. nuptials.  The professional photographer had been snapping photos at the salon, in the suite, in the classy foyer of The Conrad, and now of the bridal party on the wedding trolley.

Alone in our hotel room, I savored the silence as I carefully pulled the new black tea-length dress with side slits over my head.  I stepped into my stylish black leather shoes with the black patent trim.  The black and white lace jacket I put on added a dash of panache to my dress.  Lovingly, I placed my late mother’s double-strand of pearls around my neck.  How she and my father would have relished their eldest granddaughter’s special day. After placing my pearl earrings in my pierced ears, I put tissues, lip-gloss, and pressed powder into my black dress bag with the jeweled accoutrement [borrowed from Anjelica], t glanced in the mirror, said a prayer for this happiest of happy days, and descended in the elevator to catch the second wedding trolley bound for Saint Mary’s.

I took my place with family members near the front of the church.  Soon enough, the bridesmaids began their walk down the aisle.  When I saw my daughter, tears welled in my eyes, but a smile also took over, for it struck me forcibly that she was an elegant young woman, on the brink of graduate school, who could easily be making this same walk in the bridal gown within a few years.  And the enormity of it all took my breath away. Suddenly, the music change heralded the arrival of the bride and her father.  Lauren’s elegant gown, veil, flowers, joy, coupled with my brother’s dapper appearance in his tux and, gasp!, his well-polished black cowboy boots, made the tears appear again.  Had I not been so afraid of mascara running down my face, thereby ruining the airbrushing, and fearful that my makeup would not last the dinner and reception that night, made me take a series of deep breaths to regain my composure.  After all, I had to read the second Epistle!  As Aunt and Godmother to my dear Lauren, I had to pull myself together and rise to the occasion.  All of those years of musical performance provided a discipline that had taught me how to rise above emotions and focus completely on the task at hand.

The sheer beauty of Saint Mary’s was a magnificent setting for this splendid wedding.  Yet this was all secondary to what transpired there that day.  I had rehearsed reading Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, 12:3 -13:8a, the one where most people remember only the line, “Love is patient; Love is kind…” A dear friend, Sister Marie Morgan, of the Order of The Sisters of St. Francis, had sent me not only the text of the passage, but our Bishop’s commentary on its significance.  As I read and re-read Saint Paul’s words, I wanted to stress the significance of how Love transcends romantic emotion, how Love affects all relationships, “For without Love, we are nothing…without Love, we gain nothing…It [Love] bears al things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”  So too is this my wish for my darling newlyweds, for my beloved daughter and nephew.

Ciao for now.

Wedding Weekend, Part 2: The Rehearsal


Wedding preparations -
Wedding preparations –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

We awakened last Friday morning, checked our lightly bronzed selves, showered carefully, preened, and drove northwest from Indianapolis to Zionsville for the bridal luncheon.  Partaking of a delectable salad accompanied by intriguing and tasty appetizers, we dashed off to a salon for a manicure.  We had our pedicure at our salon back home.  I am still uncertain why I bothered with a pedicure since I was wearing close-toed shoes for The Nuptials.

Beating a hasty retreat to Indianapolis, we donned our new Talbots dresses [my daughter’s a black lace confection, and mine, a vivid white and turquoise floral] and new pumps [nude] for the rehearsal at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church downtown.  The church is a large Roman Gothic structure replete with elegant stained glass windows, inlaid terrazza marble floor, vaulted ceilings, and a breathtaking Sacristy.  In short, Saint Mary’s was the perfect place for the Big Event.  Anxiety was evident among the bridal party as they practiced walking up the aisle.  Some moved at a breakneck pace, while others strolled regally.  As one of two readers, I practiced the long walk from a carved wooden pew, and up the highly polished steps to the lectern.  After familiarizing myself with the mocha satin ribbon marking my reading passage, I realized I would have to adjust the microphone on The Day since the first reader was quite a bit taller than I.

We then piled into cars and sped off to Lorenzo’s Ristorante, where the groom’s parents were hosting the rehearsal dinner for the bridal party.  It was a memorable repast with family and friends, not to mention mouth-watering Calamari Fritti, Bruschetta, Chicken Marsala, and bottomless glasses of vino.  Justin the Groom-to-Be made touching speeches about each of his groomsmen, giving each of them gifts [tasteful barware and coffee table books].  Lauren followed with heartfelt sketches of what each of her bridesmaids meant to her.  She then distributed gifts of elegant Kate Spade jewelry to each.  The groom’s father created a poignant slideshow of Lauren and Justin’s babyhood to adulthood.  Seeing my late parents smiling and laughing with Lauren, and later with her brother and my daughter, brought a tear to my eye.

It was a night of joy and laughter that boded well for tomorrow’s Main Event.

Ciao for now.


Wedding Weekend, Part 1: The Arrival

Action figures in downtown Indianapolis =
Action figures in downtown Indianapolis =

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

We arrived in Indianapolis this past Thursday later than planned.  After quickly checking in to The Conrad, we made a beeline for the spa for our appointments.  An hour later we emerged more golden in color, yet  fretful about smearing our new semi-bronzed look.  Although this was the first time I had attempted such a spa treatment, it proved not to be an altogether unpleasant experience.

After hanging up our wedding weekend attire, paying particular attention to my daughter’s bridesmaid’s dress that had been professionally pressed and swathed in protective plastic, we next contemplated a light dinner.  Tastings Wine Bar appealed to us on the warm June evening.  The fact that it was located just off the foyer of The Conrad tantalized us even more, for we were weary.

The outdoor patio afforded us much people watching, as did The Arts Garden, which loomed above and straddled either side of the street.  We ordered wine, of course, and several plates of assorted tapas:  two kinds of flatbread pizzas, and a platter of Irish and English cheese with fresh fruit.  Suddenly I glanced up and saw Batman crossing at the intersection.  Spiderman appeared, followed by the Incredible Hulk.  A short time later, a woman strolled past walking a miniature horse that wore a small hat on its head and sneakers over its hooves.  The mini-horse walked stiffly in its sneakers.  We had the distinct impression that the small stead either was afflicted with arthritis, or simply disdained wearing sneakers of a plaid variety.

A white carriage pulled by a white workhorse pulled up across the street.  While I am against use of horses in urban settings for entertainment purposes, this white full-sized horse appeared more content to clip-clop-clip-clop along in his own iron horse shoes.

Ciao for now.