Shorter and colder days, increase cravings for comfort food. And comfort food means everybody’s favorite carb group: pasta dishes.
Unfortunately, Indy doesn’t have ethnically named enclaves like other culture-rich cities. No “Little Italy,” “Little Tokyo,” or “Chinatown,” exists in Indianapolis. The closest approximation is a small enclave of Italians in and near Fletcher Place neighborhood, on the near southeast side, which connects to the owner of a once-favorite downtown Italian eatery.
The Fletcher Place neighborhood gave us David Page, who grew up near the intersection of College and Virginia Avenues. For nearly twenty years, Page owned one of downtown’s most noted Italian restaurants.
La Scala opened its doors in 1973. The original location was two doors south of St. Elmo Steak House, making that block of South Illinois Street the epicenter of destination dining in the city. Their menu featured many kinds of pasta with choice of sauce, sandwiches and pizzas. The minestrone soup was particularly memorable.
Diners flocked to the restaurant, necessitating larger digs. In 1978, Page and his business partners purchased the historic Schnull & Company building on the other side of the block, where guests were treated to a lavish experience. A two-level dining room with ornate columns and marble were distinguishing features of the restaurant. After the move, the restaurant confronted a health inspection controversy that forced a brief closure. Page, who at the time served as a Democrat on the City-County Council, lashed out in the local media, blaming the bad publicity on his political foes. The incident did little to dissuade hungry patrons who still flocked for heaping portions of ravioli.
Despite the quality spaghetti, Page eventually lost the battle. The building stood in the way of Circle Centre Mall’s future. The City purchased the building in 1988, and demolished it the following year. It was an abrupt “Ciao,” disappointing to locals.
David Page remained active in the neighborhood where he grew up, organizing the annual Italian Street Festival at Holy Rosary Parish. His involvement was so key to the event that the festival went on a one-year hiatus when he stepped down in 2012. Page recently ventured back into tasty Italian treats with Café Nonna at the main intersection of his boyhood home. Unfortunately, it was short-lived, which is unfortunate, since the pineapple sorbetto was a tropical bite of heaven.
Indianapolis Italians, Arcadia, 2006
Indianapolis Star, September 23rd 2014
Indianapolis Star, July 15th 1982
Polk’s City Directory, 1973, 1978, 1989