Review: I ate great Italian food in Des Moines, and it was in a food court
When my stomach's rumbling and I have to take a break in my workday to grab lunch, there isn't much to choose from. I tend to look for places that are quick and close to Capital Square. Sticking to those two criteria usually forces me to sacrifice quality for convenience.
That is, until the Greater Des Moines Partnership opened its food court not too long ago. Initially, I assumed there would be the same ol' restaurant chains and low-quality selections that we've all grown accustomed to at food courts.
But you know what happens when you assume, right? I ended up being way wrong. To my surprise, I was able to get fresh, quality food from L'Italiano, an Italian eatery located in a corner of the Partnership's food court.
When I walked up to L'Italiano, I knew that this place was a little different from what I was used to. The tables that surround L'Italiano's eating area have tablecloths and centerpieces.
There also is a projector that plays movies during the day. I believe "Goodfellas" was playing the first time I visited. If you have time to sit and eat there, all of these little touches combined make for an enjoyable dining experience. It's the little things.
My dining partner Courtney and I decided to start things off with arancini aka Italian rice balls. I ordered one Arancini Bolognese ($2.99), which contains ground top sirloin, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and arborio rice. Courtney had the Arancini Zucchini ($2.99), which contained zucchini, smoked mozzarella cheese and arborio rice. I was skeptical about these at first because I thought they would be glorified hush puppies. Once again, I was mistaken. It was love at first bite. Courtney and I agreed that we could eat three of these each and call it a day. We didn't stop there, though.
One of the most impressive things about this place is the freshness of the food, especially the pasta. My favorite thing about the pasta here is that it's fresh and each dish isn't drowning in sauce. We went with the Penne Al Pesto Pasta ($8.95), which is made with arugula, garlic, pine nuts, grana padano cheese, cherry tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil.
While I've tried several pastas on the menu, this was my least favorite and my Snapchatting sidekick wasn't a big fan of it either. It wasn't bad, but it didn't blow us away. If you are looking for a pasta to try, I would recommend the Tagliatelle Bolognese ($11.95). I tried it in a past trip, and THAT dish really hit the spot.
One of the more impressive things about L'Italiano is that it takes the time to make fresh pasta each day. I even got a behind-the-scenes look at how they make the pasta after hours.
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Lots of textures
Going to an Italian eatery and not trying the pizza is disrespectful on so many levels. We split the Mediterranean pizza ($10.95), which was made with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, capers, Kalamata olives, arugula and extra virgin olive oil. We enjoyed the mix of textures with the arugula, capers, tomatoes and olives. It was quite tasty.
Last but not least
We had to finish things off with the Panna Cotta ($2.99) dessert, which tasted a bit like ice cream with a pudding-like consistency. I like ice cream and I like pudding, so this was a win-win for me. It also comes with a thin layer of strawberry sauce on top. I wish the sauce was a bit thicker, and my eating buddy was thrown off a bit by the different textures. Overall, I enjoyed it.
Location: 700 Locust St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Contact: (515) 282-6700