Mezzodi’s – Bringing Formaro Goodness back to Des Moines’ Southside

Mezzodi’s Italiano Americano has been on the South Side of Des Moines for about ten years. A couple of weekends ago we happened to be driving through the south side around supper time and since I’d recently read a news report about a change in ownership at Mezzodi’s, I decided we should give it a try. When we got there, I was really surprised to see the level of style and detail in the restaurant. It is worth a visit just to see the interior design. This all starts with the nice “Disneyesque” sign on the front of the building (do they make those 3-D looking signs out of plastic?). I don’t know what the original owner paid for that sign, but it must have been a lot. The spare-no-expense approach carries through the entire restaurant, including the bar, the dining area and even the restrooms. If this was all done ten years ago, then it has been meticulously taken care of since as the whole place looked brand new. The level of craftsmanship and attention to detail is really amazing. You just don’t see this level of care in restaurants anymore.

Food: Enough about the design. We go to restaurants to eat, so what about the food? We started off with an appitizer – a dish of very good grilled gorgonzola polenta cake topped with wild mushroom ragout ($7.99). The polenta was very tasty. One in our group (the flexitarian) ordered a dinner salad – roasted pear and walnut salad with mixed greens, red onion, gorgonzola and roasted garlic vinaigrette ($10.99) and reported that the ingredients were fresh and that it was well prepared. Since I am still on my pilgrimage to visit locally owned Des Moines Italian restaurants, we had to try the the beef ravioli topped with marinara sauce. ($12.99). I have to say that it was obvious that the ravioli pasta was hand-made, but it did not quite compare to the ravioli made by Chuck’s, Tumea & Sons, Gino’s or Baratta’s. While each of those establishments have their own take on the pasta and sauce, the Mozzodi pasta was a tad too thick and chewy. The price is a bargain when compared to some of the local Italian restaurants and the portion was very adequate. The sauce on the ravioli seemed to be a fairly standard marinara sauce. I also tried the wild mushroom risotto. This came bathed in a creamy sauce and was mixed with wild mushrooms, garlic and parmesan cheese ($13.99). There was nothing wrong with the risotto pasta itself, but it suffered the fate of a lot of creamy Italian pasta dishes in that every bite tasted like the last. I don’t know if that is my problem for ordering it since I try to avoid those types of dishes, but I had hoped that there might be more flavor and texture variation with the parmesan cheese, garlic, and mushrooms.

The dessert menu is where Mezzodi’s really shined. They were fabulous. I don’t know exactly how they put this together, but I think that their desserts are hands-down the best (as a group of offerings) that I’ve had lately. We had the locally made falling down chocolate cake, a gelato, and double canolis that that were all very good. I didn’t try the falling down chocolate cake (I was busy snarfing down the cannolis) but it was a hit with our group. I love canoli and this was a very rich and large example. Each cannoli was larger than any I’ve had lately and they were packed with goodness. Both the canoli and the falling down chocolate cake were very large servings and I suppose we could have shared.

Mezzodi’s has recently (even today) gotten some reviews, so there is a lot of interest to see if the managment hired by the new owner will be able to extend the success of Centro and Django to the south side. After looking at other reviews, it may be that we just didn’t order the dishes that they do best. The pizza and some of the meat dishes seem to get good raves.

Service: Service was very prompt and professional and it is clear that this is one of the restaurants in which the wait staff is not expected to hang around the kitchen putting food on the plates. The dress code for the staff ranges from very casual to extremely casual, which seems at odds with the decor and the ’60s jazz music but perhaps in keeping with the lower prices. This was mentioned in another recent review, so I take it that this is something that the management is OK with. Though it seemed a bit jarring I really can’t complain about the level of service. I should add that although they were out of the bottle of wine I had ordered, the staff substituted a slightly more expensive bottle for the same price.

Crowd: The weekend evening that we visited there was a steady crowd though the dining room was never more than half full. There was a variety of age groups and the older set that trickled in all night was more of the caddy, martinis and golf club crowd than the blue hair and walker set looking for a bargain.

I do think that Mezzodi’s will see me back in the near future. I think that the cocktail lounge will be up for a visit soon, and I will probably get around to trying one of the chicken dishes that get raves.

Mezzodi’s
4519 Fleur Drive
Des Moines, Iowa 50321
515-287-3333

Lunch Hours: 11am-4pm
Dinner Hours: Mon-Thurs 4-10pm,
Fri & Sat 4-11pm; Sun 4-9pm

Mezzodi's on Urbanspoon

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