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Authentic Italian in the Triangle?

We recently moved from New York City to Raleigh and we have been searching for authentic Italian restaurants. We've searched the Chowhound boards and have mostly come up with Italian-American "red sauce" places. Any suggestions? Thanks for any ideas.

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  1. I think Daniels(it's in Apex) is supposed to be one of the most authentic, I've been there a couple of times and thought it was pretty good but I don't go out for italian here very often because most places are as you described above. It's right near the Beavercreek shopping center.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fromageball

      I feel like Daniel's def. belongs to the red sauce set. There aren't really very many places that are doing great authentic Italian. Adam,the new chef at Il Palio is doing some really good food, some of which is "authentic," and the below rec for Piedmont certainly is right on, but you're going to be hard pressed to find the type of places you'd see, in, say a Boston North End or some such neighborhood.

    2. It's not a full menu, but Ciao Cafe and Wine Bar in Cary has great antipasti and an authentic Italian owner :). http://www.ciaocafeandwinebar.com/men...

      We also like Vespa (in Chapel Hill or Cary). There's an appetizer there that my husband said he hadn't had since he'd been in Italy. http://chapel.hill.vespasta.com/

      And of course Vivace is very well regarded. http://www.vivaceraleigh.com/

      1. The short answer is no. Piedmont in Durham has some authentic dishes that they'll occassionally do, but they're not exclusively italian.

        1. Piedmont is the closest I've found to authentic Italian. Vespa is more of the old-fashioned Italian-American checked table-cloth type place, which is fine if thats what you're looking for. I haven't tried Il Palio yet, aside from brunch (which was fairly mundane).

          2 Replies
          1. re: LulusMom

            Year ago, Il Palio was excellent. Lately, not so much. Unfortunately, the definition of "Italian food" here seems to be what most people from the Outer Boroughs define as "pizzeria food." That means you get pizza, a few pasta dishes, and some meat dishes that really should be served on a hero roll. Some other places seem to have seen too many B gangster movies and think that naming everything after characters from the Sopranos somehow makes it "real."

            What I think you're looking for is more like trattoria food and no, there just plain isn't any here. To my lasting regret.

            1. re: rockycat

              est, est, est in raleigh was good in it's time. those were the days before downtown was hopping after hours -- just a ghostly drive to try and park as close as you could :)

              wasn't there a good place in sanford, run by a woman/family from italy? it's been years since i read about it in the independent.

          2. Another idea is Panzanella in Carrboro. I love their pizzas, and they do a few pastas too. Not strictly italian (despite the name) but worth checking out.

            I've never been to Pops but have heard good things - anyone have any thoughts on that?

            1 Reply
            1. re: LulusMom

              i'm not sure that panzanella or pop's (which is very good) is exactly what they are looking for. it certainly wouldn't hurt to try them.

              aurora would have been a good recommendation if they were still around.

            2. Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions. It gives us a few places to start!

              1. Not a resto, per se, but if you're looking for good Italian ingredients for cooking at home, check out Capri Flavors in Cary/Morrisville. Titina and crew have some great things that you won't find in the grocery stores around here, and her cooking classes are a blast.


                1. I've eaten at lots of local places that have "authentic" Italian food, though many of them are hybrid modern style restaurants where that isn't all they serve.

                  New York Italian is another matter. That is best gotten in New York, as opposed to Boston Italian, which is best obtained in Boston. If you really want *authentic* Italian, maybe Italy would serve best, but last I checked "new york italian" is still not equal to "authentic italian".

                  Pancuito in Hillsborough serves "real" Italian food with a southern twist, I'd recommend it, but I'm afraid if it isn't a 10th avenue trattoria in midtown you won't like it.

                  1. We've yet to find authentic Italian in the Triangle.

                    We had dinner at Piedmont once and found it authentic, but not very well-prepared. The risotto was undercooked, food was underseasoned and over-garlicked (for lack of a better word) and the service was dismal. Not rude, not "bad", but not very well-trained, not polished. I do have to say that the forcemeats were exquisite however.

                    We enjoyed Vivace in North Hills, but it may not be what you're looking for, either. The food iwas very good, well-prepared, properly seasoned and definitely not red sauce-centric, but it's not particularly old world. The wine list is all Italian, and they had some wines I'd not seen elsewhere in the Triangle.

                    Whatever you do, don't let anyone send you to Bella Monica. We had a good meal, but that's because he had a pizza and I had spaghetti & meatballs. The food was tasty, but it's definitely AMERICANIZED Italian, not at all authentic.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: geecka

                      I personally have no basis for judging the authenticity of Italian Food, but in my experience Bella Monica is a fantastic restaurant. Never had a bad meal there - everything tastes great, and the prices are very reasonable ($10-$15 range for the most part). Their appetizer list is especially impressive - the stuffed eggplant is a stand-out, but you could make a meal out of several of the choices.

                    2. A friend wants to dine at Pazzo in Chapel Hill. I couldn't find much mention of it here on the South board. Anyone been there for Italian? How does it compare to some of the others mentioned here in this thread?

                      1. My favorite's La Russa in Meadowmont in Chapel Hill (near Brixx across from the Friday Center). It's inexpensive and has great pasta.

                        1. Oh, do I have a jewel for you. Little Italy, here you come.

                          My husband and I just tried Casalinga for the first time last weekend. Small-ish, authentic Italian restaurant in a TERRIBLE TERRIBLE TERRIBLE looking shopping center on Capital Boulevard (Millbrook Road intersection). Don't be fooled--it was the best Italian I have had in years. Portion sizes are huge, they have a GREAT wine list. The vodka cream sauce was to die for.

                          Check out the website--http://carlocasalinga.net/

                          Enjoy and do report back!!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: neighsayer

                            Haven't been there in at least 3 years. Then, the lunch buffet was pretty good. It was actually far better than ordering dinner off the menu. In fact, we were kinda underwhelmed with the dinner service. And this is from someone who thinks the inventor of the lunch buffet should be shot.

                            I have heard, within the last week or so, that their standards have slipped quite a bit and they just aren't what they used to be. I was told Carlo is no longer in the kitchen. Anyone konw anything about that?

                            And, btw, don't be put off by Mini City. It's old and showing its age but there's absolutely nothing wrong with the area.

                          2. I also have had some good experiences at Casalinga. Has anyone tried Cafe Luna downtown? They are not an old-timey Italian type place, but what they do is good. Their red clam sauce is excellent. They use good quality cheese. The place can be very loud because of the acoustics, but the food is excellent. imho.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: raleighchow

                              I've been to Casalinga many times over the years. It's a nice place, much nicer than it looks on the outside (of course). I dream about their white pizza w/ spinach! My mother claims the pasta dishes have indeed slipped in quality. Who knows. I still really like the place and won't stop going there.

                              1. re: raleighchow

                                I am a fan of Casalinga. Only been a few times but always a good meal. I like the white clam sauce. Is it equal to New York Italian?? Thats a matter of taste , I have had both great and mediocre Italian meals in NYC myself.

                              2. Pop's in Durham, across from Brightleaf Square. I was struck by how closely it resembled the real trattorias I visited in Venice, off the tourist track. Even the pizza tastes more Northern Italian than American. Try the mussels, too.

                                810 W Peabody St, Durham, NC 27701