Panzanella in Carrboro-- Deserves more mention
We've had a couple of meals here now and I think this place deserves more mention than it gets by Triangle hounds. It's a pretty restaurant with a very relaxed ambiance. The service is attentive without overbearing. The food is tasty and fairly priced. At our last meal I had the bucatini pasta with lamb shank ragu and my wife had perfectly seared diver's scallops (they were huge!) with okra and can't remember what else. I didn't care for the blueberries in it but the lemon creme brulee was cremy sweet and my wide enjoyed her peach crisp. I appreciate that this place doesn't try to be more than what it is.
I wish people would post how long ago it was when they had a bad meal.
Panzanella is my local, I have eaten there about 15 times the past year. The home-made pasta is excellent & their specialty .The chef, Mario Batali makes the dish of Bucatini with boar ragu in nyc for waay more $ & believe me it's not as good.
The gnocchi is the lightest & since I did not care for the sauce they were serving with it, the waiter was happy to substitute Marinara. I really like that. The bread is also wonderful & the focaccia great for sopping up their good sauce.
The service is very accomodating and friendly, even on Friday night.
The fried squid appetizer is crispy & a big plateful. The mussels in a spicy broth. Many a time when I am with someone, we will have 2 appetizers and share a main pasta dish, which are quite big. I've also done that and shared a simple pizza. It's very reasonable & delicious.
My friend, the beef eater, says Panzanella's is finer than Acme's, which surprised me. I usually skip dessert & have a coffee & cigarette over at weaver st.
Some things arent' so great; bad combos of pastas with sauces. So ask for Marinara or butter & cheese. Pasta & fish are their strong suit. And I regard their cooking as comperable to the best in nyc but far superior & fresher & cheaper.
I find the room airy & really enjoy fine food in a laid-back atmosphere.
When I lived in Chapel Hill, I ate at Panzanella at least four or five times and was disappointed every single time. The food is good but not great. The portions were always meager (barely enough for a woman trying to practice portion control, definitely not enough for anyone really hungry)--except for one bizarrely huge mountain of fried calamari. I don't like or expect huge portions--I find those at Nana's and Magnolia Grill to be perfectly sized--but these were just too skimpy given the cost of the food. Also, the service was always extremely slow, even on a weeknight when the restaurant was only half full, and the servers were pleasant but spacey. Because the food was decent, and the location more convenient than that of Pop's in Durham, we gave Panzanella a second chance . . . and a third . . . and a fourth. But eventually we lost patience with leaving hungry and out $60 (for two) after a meal that took at least half an hour longer than it should have.
I haven't tried the special wine and local food dinners. Maybe they're more on their game then.
By the way, all of my visits took place between October 2005 and May 2006. It's possible that service has improved over the summer.
I don't want to bash Panzanella. I really wanted to like the place, and I did find the food to be reasonably tasty. I never write off a restaurant after a single incident of poor service--that's why I kept returning to give it another try. But I thought it was my duty to inform fellow hounds that I experienced a consistent pattern of poor service and inadequate portions. I'm happy to hear that others have had better experiences.
It's not a bargain but the cost-to-quality ratio is high IMO. My pasta dish was $15 and the scallop dish was $17, IIRC.
As for Durm's comments, we didn't have similar experiences. I'm a big guy and I found the pasta dish perfectly portioned for m. And if anything, we were surprised by how quickly we got our food. Perhaps they have improved their game since Durm's visits.