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Feb 9, 2008 07:45 AM

Charlotte: Tria Terra

Move over Ilios Noche, Tria Terra is my new favorite neighborhood spot! I loved everything about this place. We had 6:30 dinner reservations. When we arrived there were only about 3 other tables in the place and no one at the small bar. We were greeted by a friendly man w/ a thick accent. He made a few jokes and directed us to our table. The dining room is so cozy you won't want to leave. I don't know about y'all, but atmosphere is very important to me. Trio Terra is perfect in this department. Low ceilings, warm golden hued walls and soft lighting. All the tables are candle lit w/ white table cloths topped w/ butcher paper. Napkins are burgundy - nice b/c of the "no lint" factor. When you are seated you are immediately brought a bread basket full of breadsticks and sliced italian bread along with a small dish of what tasted like chimichurri sauce for dipping.

The menu is broken up into many different categories. Appetizers, Salads, Vegetable Tapas, Seafood, Meats, Specialties, Of The Grill, Pastas (and I think there was one other). We started w/ carpaccio and grilled calamari w/ vegetables. Both were good. The carpaccio was served w/ shaved parmesan and arugula lightly dressed w/ balsamic & olive oil. I would of liked crostini with it. The calamari was good too. Lots of veggies and olive oil.

Mr. lynnlato had a special of homemade osso buco ravioli w/ house made ricotta salata and a brown sauce. These were delicious! The pasta was so light and the veal rich and yummy (sorry, words escape me). I had two tapas: grilled chorizo and saffron rice w/ red peppers and peas (arroz). Both were very good. Our friends had spinach & ricotta ravioli w/ a tomato sauce and grilled salmon over corn (w/ a sauce but I'm not sure what it was). They enjoyed their dinners as well. In between courses we were served lemon sorbet.

The dessert menu was pretty much the usual suspects. The standard creme brulee, tiramisu, etc. But they also had crema catalana, a few gelati and panna cotta. They were out of the crema catalana (which was surprising b/c we arrived before the rush). We had the hazelnut gelato. It was good - very rich w/ big pieces of hazelnut.

Not long after we arrived the place filled to capacity. Our service was never affected. For all we knew, we were the only table and had many back servers and our regular server attending to us. Water glasses never went empty and everyone was so pleasant. It was just so refreshing. I felt as though I was in NY or a neighborhood place back home in PA.

You've gotta get to this place. I just might be there when you do!

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    1. re: hazardnc

      Carmel Commons shopping center on Hwy 51, between Carmel & Johnston Rds (next door to Chuck e. Cheese). Sorry, just assumed everyone knew since the local food critics have been raving.

      Owner is brother to the owner of Fiamma on Park Rd.

      1. re: lynnlato

        Thanks Lynn. Can't wait to try it.

        1. re: lynnlato

          Sounds like a great dining experience. Interesting to hear the similarities to Fiamma.
          The homemade pasta, grilled calamari, osso bucco and even the lemon sorbet between courses. I need to try this place and you need to try Fiamma. We will both be better people for doing so.!

      2. My husband and I, not wanting to battle the amateurs this evening, decided to have a Valentine's Day lunch @ Tria Terra. Again, a perfect experience. Food was good, service was stellar.

        They have a limited lunch menu - unlike the wide-ranging dinner menu. My husband ordered the house made gnocchi w/ a sausage, fennel & tomato sauce. I initially ordered the pappardelle w/ bolognese sauce. Soon after ordering I realized that I forgot my insulin. The owner (and our server) returned w/ our drinks and I asked him if it was possible to change my order. I explained that I'm a diabetic and I forgot my insulin. He assured me it was no trouble at all and even helped me choose a carb-free meal. He suggested the chicken piccata w/ the lemon/caper/butter sauce and instead of mashed potatoes he suggested I get extra sauteed spinach. Perfect! After we finished and paid the bill a lovely woman came to our table and handed my husband a rose to give to me in the spirit of Valentine's Day. I'm in love w/ Tria Terra!

        14 Replies
        1. re: lynnlato

          Hot off the press Beginning Dec. 1, the menu at Tria Terra Restaurant will become exclusively Italian. All the current Italian dishes will remain on their menu and more will be added.
          It will be interesting to see if the menu becomes the same as at Fiamma as the chefs are brothers.

          1. re: GodfatherofLunch

            I guess that means good bye to the Tapas... too bad, they were good.

            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

              I'm ashamed to report that I haven't been to Tria Terra in quite a while. I'll have to get over there soon. Thanks for the update, GFL.

              1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                Thats really a shame. Though everybody raves, I had a very mediocre experience at Fiamma, so, the prospect of "Fiamma South" is less than exciting.

                1. re: bellyspeaks

                  Fiamma is my favorite place in Charlotte. Sorry you were less than thrilled. Where did they fall short. Just as a baseline what Italian food do you like in Charlotte?

                  1. re: bellyspeaks

                    Interesting, that's the first negative review i've heard about Fiamma. I'm also curious to know what made the experience mediocre. I have to say it's one of my favorite restaurants in town and easily the best Italian I've ever had in this town.

                    1. re: ickymettle

                      I ordered a vitello tonnato app and it was really bad. The "vitello" was like sliced lunch meat and the "tonnato" was like pink (why it was pink I don't know) flavorless mayonaise. Now, thats the kind of classic dish that you really don't put on the menu unless you can execute it properly. It's the kind of dish I won't even order unless I've been to a place a couple of times and am confident they can pull it off. However, Fiamma has been praised by so many, my dinning party included, I figured I'd give it a shot. Mistake.

                      My entree was a pasta dish that was OK. I don't even remember it (was there in august), just that I ate it but wasn't very enthused about it. I drank a Gavi di Gavi that was ordered for the table. Now, I'm by no means writing the place off. Any kitchen can have a bad night. But it will take some time and cajoling(sp) to get me back.

                      As far as my baseline for Italian, in truth, there are two. The first is the one formed growing up in Jersey. That is a particular "type" of Italian, e.g. linguini and clam sauce, putanesca, etc. For that kind of Italian I am loyal to Portofino (specifically, the location on Park), whose owners are from my hometown in Jersey.

                      After that, the second is, for lack of a better term, "highbrow". This is the regionalized "authentic" Italian which in Charlotte is marketed as "Tuscan" be it actual Tuscan cuisine or not. Mind you, despite my use of the term "highbrow", I do view this second type as a style as opposed to a check average. Fiamma, I was led to believe, was of this style, evidenced by their inclusion of vitello tonnato on the menu as opposed to say, shpagetti 'n meetbalsz.

                      Now, when craving this second "type" of Italian I go for Augusto Conte's places say, Luce or Coco or Toscana, take your pick. (Toscana is a little gem of a place that in springtime, may have the best patio dinning in town.) Therefore, when I really need to get bloated on osso bucco or whole roasted branzini, I'll hit up those places. Not to mention, their wine lists rock.

                      1. re: bellyspeaks

                        Bummer,Vitello tonnato is a wonderful warm weather dish, sorry yours was not to you liking. I have had the sauce when it looked almost beige and also with a rosy hue which I find more appealing. Was it dark pink? Was the veal overcooked, it should have been slightly pink? I have never had this dish at Fiamma. I have had many Pasta dishes and find the fresh house made pasta excellent. Perhaps this was an off night. Did you receive lemon sorbet to cleanse your palette between courses? Did you enjoy the pesto spread served with the bread and bread sticks?

                        1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                          Ok. I'm not even being dramatic when I say the "veal" looked like lunch meat. I mean it was literally cut on a slicer, thin, like deli meat. The sauce, yes, should be beige. It's basically a tuna mayo with capers and lemon juice. And I agree, "beige sauce" isn't the most appealing looking thing in the world. And to be honest, the whole dish is intuitively unappealing. Right? Cold slabs of meat smothered in a cold fish mayo? But then you bite into it and (when it's good) the texture of the veal plus that robust sauce...the thing should just scream rustica. That's what I mean about proper execution. It's a very specific dish that's not really open for interpretation. I liken it to souffle. There's generally a very clear and high expectation of what you should receive when you order it.

                          The pesto spread rocked (at both restaurants), the intermezzo sorbet i only got at Tria Terra. At Terra I'd say "You had me at fresh cured sardines" and after I got the intermezzo I was pretty much shopping for ring.

                        2. re: bellyspeaks

                          You're from NJ, eh? Hmpf, who knew! I've heard good things about Toscana, but have neve been. GFL swears by Fiamma and he's a Jersey boy too. Hopefully, Fiamma just had a bad night.

                          I ate at Portofino's in Gastonia and I was disappointed. We had pizza and I had some chicken dish (white wine butter sauce maybe w/ prosciutto, shrooms,etc) and it was dreadful. Perhaps it's just that location? It just reminded me of why I don't eat Italian "down here". Nobody can do it like they do it "back home". IMHO. :)

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            I have been to Portifino on Eastway and most often the one on Park. It's red sauce style, kinda like NJ. Portifino on its best night is on par with an average pizza place back in Joisey. That is not a bad thing.

                            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                              Eastway was the first location and I started out there. It is very Jersey. I mean, low-rent strip mall, tacky cheap decor (are those dusty plastic grapes?), pictures of the Italian National team next to pictures of the local little league team that the kids play in and that they sponsor. You know where I'm coming from. The hot subs (meatball or chicken parm) are perfect, specifically when you get them to go and they sit for a while, wrapped up tight in foil, where they kind of steam a little and soggify to perfection. You can get a slice to go - put on a paper plate then in a paper bag. Retarded but straight up Jersey.

                              Then Park opened and it was newer, nicer, though still a little tacky (clean plastic grapes). Park is where I go now. The pastas are good and meet my expectations. I'm particular to the linguine with white clam sauce. The pizza, not the most amazing stuff, but is exactly what I grew up on. I go plain or pepperoni, that's it.

                              lynnlato- I hear you on the "back home" sentiment. There's a weird thing about Italian American food if your from NY, NJ, or PA. All three states have generational Italian populations. As such, I think things like pizza, or lasagna, or spaghetti and meatballs evolved regionally. I mean take pizza. NJ pizza is not NY pizza which is probably not PA pizza. Yet the three as a group represent something different (and better, hehe ) than pizza in the other 47 states.

                              Like Portofino. I recommend it because i think people will like it. But, I don't expect them to *really* like it unless they're from Jersey. So I'd say, try Portofino on Park. I think location makes a difference. I've never eaten at the Gastonia location. In fact, I've never eaten in Gastonia :)

                              1. re: bellyspeaks

                                Another goombatz from Joisey. Sometimes I feel sorry for Charlotte natives having to absorb us all. I really like Portofino's pizza and mussels marinara. I've only been to the one on Park and I have had some issues with very peculiar waiters and the tables being very close to one another but it doesn't stop us from going back.

                                1. re: southernitalian

                                  It's not fine dining but it is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. I like their Pasta Boscaiola it has prosciutto bites and fresh peas in creamy pink sauce.
                                  I also enjoy the spaghetti and sausage. It's one of the few places in town where you can get half decent Veal Parm Hero (lunch only)