Italian restaurant to open in old Nook space

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Pomodoro is expected to open in November. (IBJ Photo/Susan Orr)

The owner of a defunct downtown restaurant that focused on specialty diets plans to open an Italian restaurant at the same location early next month.

Pomodoro—Italian for “tomato”—will open at 15 E. Maryland St., which until June was occupied by Nook, a restaurant that served food catering to diners who were on the paleo, Whole 30 or keto diets. The space is in the same building as the Hampton Inn hotel at Meridian and Maryland streets.

Johnny Vassallo, who was involved in Nook and is a minority investor in Pomodoro, told IBJ this week that the new restaurant will focus on southern Italian dishes and will be “much more simple” to operate than Nook. Vassallo would not say if Pomodoro’s investors are the same as Nook’s.

Pomodoro’s menu includes pizza, pasta and salads, along with specialty entrees—fish, steak, chicken and veal. Pizzas will range from about $11 to $16; pasta from $11 to $19; and entrees from $16 to $28. Some dishes will be offered with vegetarian and gluten-free options.

The restaurant will also offer appetizers and desserts, along with a large selection of beer and wine.

“There’s tons of steak houses in Indianapolis, so If you want to go high end, there’s lots of places like that,” he said. “But we’re a bit different. We’re going to have high-quality food, but also do buckets of beer.”

Unlike most mid-range and upper-scale downtown restaurants, Pomodoro will be limited service, except for the bar, which will be full-service.

Instead of being seated and having a server take food orders, patrons at Pomodoro will place their order at a centralized counter. Servers will deliver the food and focus on other aspects of service, including taking drink orders.

Vassallo said he expects that approach will go over well for patrons looking for a quick bite—particularly those who are in town for events or on their way to Bankers Life Fieldhouse or the city’s other sports venues. He said the Nook restaurant struggled because the customized nature of the food made it difficult to get meals out of the kitchen quickly.

“This will be much easier for us to operate and very easy for people to come in before a game,” Vassallo said. “We will be able to get a lot of food out” with this approach.

He said using a central ordering station will cut in half the number of people the restaurant will need to hire. He said the record-low unemployment rate has made it difficult to find workers for restaurants, which led ownership to decide on the limited-service concept.

Vassallo said the company also plans to use delivery services like GrubHub and Doordash, and might offer catering.

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