Charbonos, named for an uncommon grape found in Napa Valley, is an equally unique restaurant. The robust wine list isn’t surprising given the restaurant is named after a grape used for making wine.
Location: Charbonos located at 128 North Avon Avenue, Suite 102, in Avon, Indiana.
Menu: The menu at Charbonos is Italian American. You’ll find a balance of upscale entrees like filet mignon with broccolini to less expensive dishes like burgers and pizza. Depending on your budget and mood, both are equally delicious.
It’s also easy to find a vegetarian-friendly dish on the menu. The eggplant parmesan sandwich with marinara and mozzarella on a hoagie roll is one option. A veggie pizza is another vegetarian option, that has artichokes, spinach, Parmesan, roasted tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. The chef flavors this pizza with basil and olive oil. Finally, if you’re in the mood for pasta, Calamarata is a hearty choice, made with artichokes, broccolini, roasted red peppers, and fresh mozzarella, combined in a Rosa cream sauce.
A kid’s menu offers at least ten healthy yet kid-friendly options that include a drink and a sundae for dessert.
Thoughts: The restaurant’s atmosphere modeled on the Tuscan countryside welcomes you with rustic stone arches. A stained-glass grid of autumnal colors divides the space between the dining room and the kitchen. Water trickles down a ten-foot-tall flat stone centered in the middle of a fountain. Rough-hewn beams accent the ceiling. Booths provide privacy for those wanting a quiet romantic dinner, while larger groups and families have the option of tables.
Adding to the Italian atmosphere is the wood-fired brick pizza oven displayed in an exhibition-style kitchen. A pizza maker makes a show of stretching the dough and getting it just the right size for that thin crispy New York-style thin crust.
In every great restaurant, there’s that one thing that haunts you until you go back. For me, at Charbonos, it’s the dipping sauce that comes with the bread that’s calling my name. It starts with olive oil; then, they mix in red wine vinegar, jalapenos, crushed red peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes. Dip in the warm house-made bread, and you’re in heaven.
The presentation on many of the dishes is Instagram perfect. Some of my favorite menu items include:
- Bourbon Street Pasta, which combines shrimp, chicken, and Andouille sausage that has a hint of spice. Add sautéed red bell pepper and onion to the protein, mix it with a red chili cream sauce and serve it over fettuccine for a dish that has flavors reminiscent of New Orleans jambalaya with pasta instead of the traditional rice.
- The tender New York strip steak sporting cross-hatched grill marks came cooked as requested. They top that steak with herbed butter that melts into the steak creating a tasty bite. Two sides accompany the steak entrees. The broccolini appears to be a popular side, along with the garlic mashed potatoes. I had the polenta fries, which was polenta cooked until firm, cut into the shape of fries, and fried. They were a refreshing change of pace.
- The three-layer carrot cake topped with cream cheese icing, caramel sauce, and decorative cinnamon-sugar coated carrot curls. Candied walnuts decorate the plate.
Reservations for weekend evenings are a good idea.
Price Range: Appetizers range from $12 for the crispy calamari or the spinach artichoke dip to $14 for the crab cakes. A cup of soup is $5. Salads run from $8 for an iceberg wedge or the strawberry pecan to $15 for a Capri salmon salad. Pizzas and sandwiches are $11 to $13. A variety of entrees range from $15 to $34. Desserts are $8 — dinner for two runs about $85, including taxes and gratuity. If you choose pizza and salads or burgers, the check will be significantly less.
Disclosure: Visit Hendricks County provided the author with a complimentary meal.