Sunday, March 26

Theater Review: Phoenix Theatre: Sex with Strangers


*Written by guest reviewer John Simmons*

Despite its provocative title, playwright Laura Eason’s Sex with Strangers isn’t really about sex,although it does start out that way. The play, at Phoenix Theatre, Indianapolis, through April 9, begins in an out-of-the way B&B that serves as a safe haven for writers.

Here we meet 30- (or is it 40?) something Olivia, whose been badly bruised by the public’s reception of her first novel. Olivia’s world is suddenly upended by the sudden appearance of the much younger − and far-too-sexy – Ethan. Turns out that Ethan is an internet sensation whose online memoir, blog and soon-to-be movie, Sex with Strangers, document his singular accomplishment of having sex with at least one new woman per week for a year. He’s also a huge fan of Olivia’s first novel and (after taking a sneak peek) her unpublished second one.


With the heavy snowfall outside robbing Olivia and Ethan of the internet and access to the outside world, what else is there for them to do – except begin bonking one another just minutes into Act I? It isn’t revealing too much to say that supremely tech-savvy Ethan helps Olivia self- publish an online version of her new novel, while Olivia uses her far more limited social media skills to learn about Ethan’s sordid past ... all with unintended consequences.

The Phoenix Theatre’s production of the two-person show
features some nice performances by real-life couple Angela R. Plank as Olivia and Brandon Alstott as Ethan, but there’s a certain subtext that’s missing.

Alstott draws a convincing portrait of a young man who seems genuinely smitten, is willing to put his sexually overactive past behind him and wants to be taking seriously as a writer. But should we really believe Ethan can move on from all the money, women and fame that keep coming his way? Plank does a nice job showing us Olivia’s fears in getting involved with Ethan and having her new work rejected. But there’s also the suggestion that quietly ambitious Olivia questions Ethan’s commitment because, having benefited from his help in achieving a success she only dreamed of, Erotic Ethan is no longer good enough for her.

Sex with Strangers is more than just the story of a woman who cannot move beyond the toxic bad boy in her life. Strangers is about the lies we tell others in relationships and about the lies we tell ourselves – about ourselves – to justify our own bad behavior. By adding this extra layer of ambiguity – by ‘muddying the waters’ just a bit – Phoenix’s production of Sex with Strangers would move from being a good production to a great one.

Images: Zach Rosing


John Simmons recently moved back to his hometown of Indianapolis from New York City, where he stage managed or produced numerous off-Broadway shows. John was also General Manager of The Active Theater.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 21

Theater Review: TOTS: Rock of Ages

*Written by guest reviewer, John Simmons:

If you know anything about Rock of Ages, now playing at Theatre on the Square, Indianapolis, then you know that it is by no means a typical musical. In fact, its razor-thin story line merely serves as the backdrop for an over-the-top, absurdly raunchy celebration (falling somewhere between a tribute and a parody) of the excesses of classic 80's Rock 'n' Roll musicians.
What little story there is centers on Drew (Davey Pelsue), an aspiring rocker who works as a bus boy at Sunset Strip's Bourbon Club, and Sherrie (Sarah Hoffman), a small town Midwestern girl who’s come to Hollywood to make it big in the movies.
Throw in club owners, with a secret yet-to-be-revealed, Lonny (John Kern) and Dennis (Dave Ruark), fading rock star and sometime sex addict, Stacee Jaxx (Thomas Cardwell), and two German developers, Hertz (Bryan D. Padgett) and his sexually ambiguous son, Franz (Zach Ramsey) who are intent on buying, and tearing down, the club. Also include city planner Regina (Andrea Heiden) who is vehemently opposed to any remodeling of the Sunset Strip, and Madam Justice (Paige Scott) and the working girls (Jordan Fox, Tessa Gibbons and Katherine Jones) of the Venus Strip Club. The storyline – sometimes artfully, sometimes awfully – weaves in the music of such 80's giants as Journey, Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon, (among others) to tell its tale.
The stunning renditions of Harden My Heart/Shadows of the Night and Here I Go Again ending Act I – just as Drew is about to give up his dream of becoming a rock star and join a boy band and Sherrie sees no future for herself beyond joining the working girls at Venus as a stripper – are well worth your time. So is the lovely, all-cast rendition of that quintessential 80’s love song Every Rose Has Its Thorn.
If high camp is more to your liking, you’ll enjoy over-the-top performances (and sudden surprises) of Hit Me with Your Best Shot and Can’t Fight This Feeling. Ages’ stirring finale, Don’t Stop Believin’ – in which cast me­mbers break the fourth wall and invite audience members to join them onstage as part of the celebration – will certainly have you on your feet.
Like the 80's rock scene itself, TOTS' Rock of Ages is heavy on the raunch. It’s rough and raggedy, with enough poop jokes, double entendres and simulated sex acts to offend almost everyone, while making you howl with laughter. The show makes no pretenses at being a work of art but, whatever your mood is going in and for however briefly, it will take you away from your problems and have you singing along/dancing in the aisles … and there is a lot to be said for that.

Images: provided by TOTS


John Simmons recently moved back to his hometown of Indianapolis from New York City, where he stage managed or produced numerous off-Broadway shows. John was also General Manager of The Active Theater. Active Theater alumni who have gone on to bigger and better things include Grace Gealey (aka Anika on Fox’s Empire) and Lucy Owens (now appearing in Miss Sloane).

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a luxury, travel, features, food and wine writer, travel, wine and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on television and radio. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Sunday, February 26

Things to do in Indianapolis March 2017


It's warm, it's cold, it's raining, then snowing, then sunny.... strange winter in Indianapolis indeed. You just decide it is a good time to go hiking, when the temps drop and the snow falls. As March rolls its way in, the weather will continue to flip flop. Outside, or in, there are always things to do in Indianapolis.
Here are my TOP 5 recommendations for March 2017.

Broadway in Indianapolis
If you have not seen it, now is the perfect time as Broadway in 
Indianapolis brings a return performance of Jersey Boys to Clowes Memorial Hall, Butler University February 28 - March 5. This will be my third time to catch it, because it is worth it (read my review here). Then, March 30 – April 2, Motown the Musical takes over The Murat Theatre at ONC. Two great eras of music ~ life is good.

WFYI Ice Miller Wine Fest 2017


Hosted by Ice Miller this wine event will be held Fri., March 3, and has been moved to Old National Center. Still the preeminent fundraiser for WFYI, this annual tasting soiree' is THE wine event for Indy.

Livery Stable
Livery has a rooftop dining experience with spectacular views of Mass Ave's splendor, Lockerbie, Chatham Arch and other historic neighborhoods. This most recent restaurant addition to the Mass-College corner is impressive in its simplicity. The understated urban d├ęcor, efficient and friendly service (an important detail to many), and trendy, well-executed menu ~ both culinary and cocktails ~ make this THE place to catch sunlight, starlight and wonderful views.

Central Canal

The best way to break out of those winter blahs is to take a stroll, bike ride, or brisk walk, along downtown's canal. From war memorials, to fountains and fauna, to people watching, there is always something to do along the waterway.




Cabaret

Moved into its new home (for now), The Cabaret is a perfect reason to dress up. Great talent is brought in from all over for the cozy, intimate club-style ambiance. Fri., March 10, Judy Kuhn performs two shows at Cabaret's new location.




Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Monday, February 20

Review: Dance Kaleidoscope: DIVAS!

Guest review by John Simmons ~

At first glance, Dance Kaleidoscope’s Divas is virtually critic-proof. After all, what’s not to like about an evening of dance choreographed to the music of some of the world’s most celebrated female singers? The evening promises to be one of pure entertainment … and DK’s Divas is certainly all of that.
But, if you look closer, you’ll see something far more interesting (and intriguing) going on.
Structurally, Divas is divided into halves: the first half features nine numbers choreographed by members of DK’s young dance troupe to the music of such world-class divas as Annie Lenox, Celine Dion, Adele, Stevie Nicks, Kelly Clarkson, Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Patti LaBelle and Barbra Streisand.
The second half features world premieres of works choreographed DK’s Artistic Director David Hochoy (to the music of Janis Joplin) and Guest Choreographer Nicholas A. Owens (to the music of the great Aretha Franklin). Both halves are ably supported by Costumers Guy Clark and Cheryl Sparks, with especially noteworthy work done by Lighting Designer Laura E. Glover.
As you’d expect, Divas’ second half is highly-polished. In his remarks at intermission, David Hochoy spoke of his admiration – born at an early age – for the music of Janis Joplin, and his tribute to her is full of flashing colors, waves of movement and choreography that emphasizes the physicality of his young dancers. It’s a tribute that captures the energy of Joplin’s music, if not its (occasional) sadness. 
Nicholas Owens’ tribute to Aretha Franklin is somewhat more varied and, at times, more subdued – featuring such show-stopping numbers as (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Respect (two songs that are certainly on everyone’s list of all-time favorite songs) and ending with the lovely and beautifully-choreographed First Snow in Kokomo.
In contrast, Divas’ first half is less a tribute to the divas whose music it celebrates and more of a look inside the minds of the next generation of choreographers, as they explore issues of concern to young people everywhere. Themes covered here include sex, love, the excitement of a first kiss, the joy of self-discovery and the loss of a parent. While technically polished, Divas’ first half is especially interesting because of the idiosyncratic, almost quirky, choices DK’s young artists make.
Jillian Godwin’s First Touch (performed to the music of Adele’s I Miss You), for example, is a very muscular, almost aggressive look at the rush that comes with a new relationship. Missy Trulock’s Edge of Seventeen (choreographed to Stevie Nicks’ song of the same name) features imagery that captures the challenges that women face in dealing with a society that wants them to be both empowered and angelic. Zach Young’s Missionary Man (choreographed to Annie Lenox’s song of the same man) features some sexy – if politically incorrect – choreography, exceeded only by the highly politically incorrect choreography offered by Timothy June’s Enlightenment, a hilarious exploration of diversity and self-discovery danced to Shirley Bassey’s I Am What I Am.
Stuart Coleman makes a bold choice for his Don’t Rain on My Parade (performed by Barbra Streisand) by featuring a single dancer in red (Aleksa Lukasiewicz), in a celebration of the simple joy a person feels in declaring their own self-worth and freedom from expectations (a celebration, Coleman says, that was inspired by the rush he felt when singing Parade solo in a karaoke bar!) These are just some examples of the many delights offered by each of Divas’ nine first half performances.
In his remarks at intermission, David Hochoy spoke about how proud he was of his young dancers and how their work on Divas represents an important first step in helping to preserve the legacy of modern dance. Divas certainly offers an evening’s worth of entertainment, as it celebrates the life and work of some of our most talented female artists. But it also makes you wonder what the future holds – and what works of art DK’s talented choreographers will one day create – as they continue on their journey of self-discovery and channel the artistic power of their own inner divas.


*Note* Dance Kaleidoscope will return with the performances:

April 1: Kaleidoscope of Dance Gala, The Westin, Indianapolis - Buy Tickets Online

April 6-9: DK & Friends, IRT - Buy Tickets

June 1-4: The Indianapolis Colts presents Dance is a Contact Sport, IRT - Buy Tickets

Images: Crowe's Eye Photography
Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Monday, February 6

Theater Review: You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown by Buck Creek Players


An appreciation of the Buck Creek Players’ 200th production, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, starts with a recognition of the show’s production values. Director Steven R. Linville and his creative team have done a wonderful job of translating one of the world’s most beloved comic strips into a three-dimensional setting.

Set designer Dan Denniston’s work is particularly impressive. Whether it is Snoopy’s doghouse, a school bus, an over-sized easy chair or Lucy’s psychiatrist’s booth famously proclaiming that “The Doctor is In,” Denniston’s designs (and their execution) accurately capture the look and feel of the panels from Charles Schulz’s famous comic strip. Costume designer Donna Jacobi also does a nice job: her costuming for Snoopy is especially clever, while her Woodstock is a work of art. As its name implies, You’re a Good Man, documents the trials and travails of one Charlie Brown, a self-deprecating young man who remains admirably determined to try his best against all odds. He can never win a ballgame (but continues playing baseball); he can never successfully fly a kite (but continues trying to do so); has a terrible crush on a pretty red-haired girl (but can never quite muster up the courage to talk to her … you get the idea). Charlie’s story is told in a series of vignettes and musical numbers, making You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown more like watching a live-action comic strip than a show with a traditional narrative.

Buck Creek has assembled a winning cast to tell this story, starting with D. Scott Robinson (who makes for an able and admirable Charlie Brown). Jessica Bartley is consistently funny (and uber-cute) as Charlie’s argumentative kid sister, Sally. Stacia Ann Hulen is appropriately bossy as Peanuts’ diva-in-waiting, Lucy Van Pelt, while Jacob E. Peterman does a nice job as her younger (and overly philosophical little brother), Linus. Scott A. Fleshood (Schroeder), Jonathan D. Krouse (Snoopy) and Emma Wilson (a quirky and endearing Woodstock) round out the cast … with Fleshood and Krouse each leading the cast in two shop-stopping numbers: Beethoven Day (Fleshood) and Suppertime (Krouse) … with Suppertime being especially snazzy, filled with old-style Broadway razzmatazz.

Peanuts has always been one of our most literate comic strips, with surprisingly complex philosophical and psychological overtones that - in its heyday in the 1960s and '70s - catapulted the comic strip into pop culture icon status (Peanuts ended publication with Charles Schulz’s death in 2000). And while adults can still look back on Peanuts and its characters with fondness, today a show like You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is really for kids and those who are kids at heart.

If anything works against Buck Creek’s Charlie Brown, it is that the show’s late January/early February run dates (in the dead of winter, when most folks stay at home) may rob the show of the younger, more family-oriented audience it deserves. So …

If you’re looking for some fun, family-oriented entertainment for your kids (and the kid in you), it is well worth your time to brave the cold, journey to Buck Creek and join Charlie, Sally, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Schroeder and Woodstock as they tell the delightful (and delightfully entertaining) story of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Show:
You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown Buck Creek Players
Dates: February 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 8:00 February 5, 12 at 2:30


Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Saturday, January 7

Ticket Giveaway: Broadway in Indianapolis' Sound of Music

Ben Davis as Captain Georg von Trapp
Sound of Music is an American classic providing childhood memories for millions of children nationwide. Thanks to Broadway in Indianapolis, I am giving away two tickets to opening night, Tuesday, January 10, 2017. The show (which is looking to be a sell out all nights) will be performed at Old National Centre.

Check back to this site for a full review on Indiana native Ben Davis as Captain Georg von Trapp, and the entire cast.

HOW TO WIN

To win, simply share this link on your FB page and state your favorite part of Sound of Music. It could be a character, a song, or even a memory. I will check Sunday night at 9 p.m. on all who have shared the link. Whoever generates the most shares of the link from their FB page, WINS!

I will contact you via FB message with details on receiving your tickets.

Ready, Set, Share ~

Images: Matthew Murphy
Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Saturday, December 31

Theater Review: Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre: Shear Madness

Breaking from its typical offering of a British farce to jump start the year, Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, opens its 2017 season with Shear Madness, running through January 29.

Originally adapted from Paul Portner's work Scherenschnitt, the play evolved over time to settle into its current format. A blend of an improv troupe's comedy, a whodunnit, and a roast of politicians, local events and nearby towns. No one and nothing is off limits as the butt of jokes.

Set in a stylish hair salon, in this case a Mass Ave spot, a retired concert pianist is murdered in her apartment above the unisex salon. Customers, owner and staff are all suspect, with two detectives grilling them, and the audience, for answers to the homicide.

The interactive performance derives much of its rhythm, jokes ~ and ending ~ from the audience, creating a different show nightly.

Stand out performances (besides the audience), include Suzanne Stark portraying Eleanor Shubert, the wealthy socialite from the town of Carmel. Stark's style of snootiness stops short of annoying, instead heightening the hilarity of the goings on.
Jeffrey Stockberger, as homicide detective Nick O'Brien, is best at interacting with the audience and keeps everything flowing smoothly.

Garnering most laughs, definitely, is Daniel Klingler's portrayal of shop owner Tony Whitcomb. Using every mannerism of the stereotypical gay hair stylist, Whitcomb sets the tone for the performance and never lets up.

I strongly recommend getting tickets immediately as this show was close to sold out capacity and an immediate success with the audience. Also, for more frivolity and collaboration with the on-stage antics, get seats close to the stage.

Bottom Line: Beef and Boards' Shear Madness is certain to sell out numerous shows with its cutting wit and ever-changing finale.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Wednesday, December 7

Theater Review: Theatre on the Square (TOTS): A Christmas Survival


So many delightful, and deserving, events to attend and performances to review... in that vein, an opportunity has presented itself to me. A gentleman in the world of theater for whom I have much respect has transplanted from New York City to his hometown of Indianapolis and offered to relieve me of some of the numerous reviews worthy of attention in town.


Without further ado ~ enter a review by John Simmons ...

A Christmas Survival Guide has been a staple of many Christmases Past but, even if you’ve seen the show before, you haven’t seen the version now being performed at Theatre On The Square’s intimate, cabaret-style Stage 2 Theater. The TOTS’ creative team has refurbished this holiday chestnut with an assortment of up-to-the-minute pop culture references, well-placed four-letter words and sexy double entendres.

How much a particular sketch tickles your funny bone will, of course, depend on your particular brand of humor. Some standouts include: a hyper-sexed rendition of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ (with and Eric Brockett); a hilariously hyper-frenzied rendition of ‘Sleigh Ride’ (Anna, Shauna Smith and singing standout Josiah McCruistion); Mrs. Claus (Eric, in drag and employing an accent of undetermined origin) complaining about being neglected by her husband, especially on Christmas Eve; a lonely young woman (Gabby Niehaus) hitting up a department store Santa (Josiah) for a date to the office Christmas party; and a lusty Saint Nick himself (Josiah) extolling the virtues of being ‘the man with the bag’ when attracting the ladies.
Pet owners, in particular, will appreciate the holiday gift exchange between a dog, a cat and their human (Anna, Eric and Josiah). Those who’ve seen the show undoubtedly have favorites of their own (as will you).

The humor is broad and adults only, and some sketches work better than others. A Christmas Carol, it’s not. A Christmas Guide’s laughs also work best when they are shared with others. So, this holiday season – if you and your friends are looking for something more naughty than nice – why not trot down to TOTS and spend an evening with A Christmas Guide’s lively cast (ably assisted by Stage Manager and Cast Member Nikki Sayer and skilled piano man Levi Burke) in ushering in some Yuletide cheer?

The show’s setup is simple: the play’s characters are reading chapters from Dr. Holly’s self-help book, A Christmas Survival Guide, with pre-recorded voice overs letting the audience in on the advice being read. There’s no real story line, but a series of musical comedy sketches (with many offering new takes on classic Christmas songs) about maintaining a brave face when celebrating Christmas in the modern age.
Images: TOTS
John Simmons recently moved back to his hometown of Indianapolis from New York City, where he stage managed or produced numerous off-Broadway shows. John was also General Manager of The Active Theater. Active Theater alumni who have gone on to bigger and better things include Grace Gealey (aka Anika on Fox’s Empire) and Lucy Owens (now appearing in Miss Sloane).

Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes magazine food and wine column: Destination Dining and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Thursday, November 10

Hyatt’s Christmas in the Kitchen 2016

The holidays are a special time of year, with hope and joy being shared. This year, many people have told me they need a little extra happiness in their lives. It has truly been a rough journey these past few months for all of us. But, I imagine, not as difficult as some children and their families have it. I recommend reaching out to give back to someone who needs joy in their lives this year to find the happiness and joy we need in our lives right now.

Here is one way ~

Indianapolis’ premier holiday event, Hyatt’s Christmas in the Kitchen, returns to benefit Indiana Children’s Wish Fund and grant special Christmas wishes for Indiana Wish children. The holiday food extravaganza takes place Dec. 8 in downtown Indy's Hyatt Regency, 1 S. Capitol. The event is held in the Hyatt’s main kitchen and ballroom beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Guests will enjoy a wide assortment of delicious appetizers, entrees, desserts, famous “Polar Bear” drinks, wine and spirits. All of the culinary creations, crafted by Executive Chef Rolf Rothen and his culinary team, will be prepared right in front of the guests in the Hyatt kitchen.

An elaborate silent auction is held throughout the event to raise funds for the wishes of Indiana's littlest patients.
Individual tickets are $150 (admittance into the event with seating) or $100 per person (admittance into the event without seating). They are almost sold out, so get them quickly.

Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, established in 1984, grants wishes to Indiana children, ages 3-18, who suffer from a life-threatening illness. Wishes include trips to the beach, Disney, shopping sprees, meeting celebrities, family vacations and home computers. To date, the organization has granted more than 3,300 wishes to Indiana children.

Reservations are limited. To purchase tickets, contact Indiana Children’s Wish Fund at (317) 913-WISH or visit IndyWish.org. 


Indiana Children's Wish Fund Mission
"We grant wishes to Indiana children, ages 3-18, who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening or terminal illness. Our mission is to bring joy, something to look forward to, and a sense of normalcy to special kids in our state. We are Indiana Children’s Wish Fund."

Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks, and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Wednesday, July 6

Restaurant Review: Bravo Cucina Italiana

I hadn't been to Bravo Cucina Italiana restaurant since I judged their chef competition a few years back. So, when invited to check out the new Savory Summer Nights menu, I accepted and stopped in for a bite.

Located on Indianapolis'  north side, and about two dozen states, I chose to try out the Willow Lake spot. (Click here for all locations) First, a quick run down:

Restaurant: Bravo Cucina Italiana
Dress: Casual
Cost: $$$$

Menu: Italian
Antipasti Salad
For those who have not eaten at Bravo, each restaurant is allowed to tweak the menu slightly, which you will want to keep in mind while scanning the online menu.

The most noticeable difference, I found, is the wine list.

I tasted a couple appetizers, three entrees, a salad, and a dessert or two. Also, a peach Bellini found its way to my table, along with a wine I selected from the list.

Grilled Chicken entree
The service was friendly and casual ~ don't dine here if you prefer the more formal atmosphere and staff.

What I had

Antipasti Salad: Romaine, sopressata, Provolone, pepperoncini, red onion, black olives, marinated red peppers, basil, oregano, red wine vinaigrette ($5.99). Well priced and large in size, I recommend sharing this if you plan on having any apps and entrees.

Calamari Fritti: Creamy horseradish, Pomodoro sauces ($12.29). Again, portions are meant for sharing, and the horseradish sauce is not too hot for enjoyment.
Crispy Shrimp Napoli: Green onions, charred tomato Napoli sauce ($12.99). Although I soldiered on with entrees, I could have stopped after these two appetizers and been perfectly content with the flavors, quality and value. Plan on sharing, and eating with a fork, rather than a finger food style appetizer.
Crab-crusted Salmon

Grilled Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Goat Cheese: Herb marinated chicken breast, pesto bread crumbs, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, haricot vert, lemon butter ($14.99). This is definitely my favorite (not counting dessert) food tried. The flavor combination was balanced and the chicken juicy.


Shrimp Scampi Pasta: Fresh capellini, tomatoes, lemon, white wine, chili flake, pesto bread crumbs, garlic crostini ($13.99). The lemon and white wine sauce is simply divine with the capellini pasta and flash seared shrimp. I would like to see the shrimp grilled instead, which would add a nice layer of flavor to this dish.

Crab Crusted Salmon: Roasted red peppers, zucchini, spinach, lemon butter, crispy fingerling potatoes. This is definitely for the heat lover with the Cajun spices on the farm-raised salmon.
Warm Cookie Butter Blondie

Warm Cookie Butter Blondie: Vanilla bean gelato, cookie butter caramel, and sugared pretzels ($5.49). Served warm, the brownie was the perfect ending for the meal ~ and created an unsharing streak in me. With vanilla bean gelato atop, melting slowly into the blondie, this is considered a two-spoon dish for good reason.

Drinks: Peach Bellini: (Pictured at top of page) Slushy-style and garnished with a fresh strawberry gives this drink the extra touch to make it a hot-afternoon must.

Wine: Although the list was Sauvignon Blanc-heavy, I found a bottle of Chardonnay from Sicily (Porta Palo $26), which was absolutely delightful. Tropical fruit forward, the white wine is thirst quenching and pairs perfectly with all three entrees. The only downside is the price on the wine, which is triple retail (This is typical in restaurant, btw).

Bottom Line: Bravo's Savory Summer Nights menu offers a value-driven menu for the Italian foodie.



Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.