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Favorite Italian in the Triangle?

Hey all, I've been here in the triangle for a little over a year, and I'm still trying to find any Italian restaurants that can equal what I was used to up in NYC. Il Palio has been great, but is a bit pricey for me. 411 West has disappointed me too many times to go back. Anyone have other suggestions? I am not really looking for fusion styles, but more traditional. Thanks!

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  1. try Daniels in Apex-- closest I've found to what I'm used to in NY

    1. Panciutto in Hillsborough has a good reputation but is pricey like Il Palio.

      We've had some good results with Panzanella in Carrboro.
      Previous threads and our time here suggest you aren't going to find a lot of NYC quality Italian around here.

      1. Agree with the panzanella suggestion, and Piedmont on a good night. But it's true ... you're not going to find anything like what you'd find in NYC.

        1. Il Palio is currently running a three course menu for $35. Lots of people like to disagree with me on this, but I'm a fan of the current chef. All of my meals there have been for dinner, except for one lunch spent enjoying a really good burger, and have ranged from very good to excellent. In Raleigh, I will stop at Vivace if I'm in the area but don't consider it a destination.

          1. No, there is simply nothing in this area that resembles the trattorias you'll find in Brooklyn and Queens. Most places representing themselves as such as pizzerias who serve a few plates of pasta and the sadly ubiquitous tiramisu.
            Although I have liked Il Palio in the past, I find that it changes personality with every chef change, and there have been quite a few. I haven't been since Brian Stapleton (IIRC) left so I can't comment on the current quality. However, it is upper end, much more like Midtown than the outer boroughs.
            Believe it or not, Casa Carbone on Glenwood does a very creditable recreation of a 1960's Italian-American red sauce joint. That may or may not be up your alley, but for what it's trying to be, it's pretty decent. Casalinga on Capital can also be pretty decent but I've heard from a few people lately that they're not what they used to be, either.
            Sorry to have to share the news, but we just don't have Italian restaurants like you're missing here. You'll just have to save up the cravings for trips back North.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rockycat

              I recently gave Casalinga a try and was pleasantly surprised. Despite the strip mall location, it has a nice neighborhood feel. I wasn't blow away by our meal, but I thought it pretty good, certainly better than average. I had a seafood pasta dish and my wife went with a veal dish. A lot of the their entrees came with a salad, which made them a pretty good deal.

            2. Along these lines, does anyone know about Conti's or Ferlo's? Are they just a market and sandwiches?

              What is Pop's in Durham like? Posta in the Marriot? Tavola Rossa? Cafe Luna? Tosca?

              I've eaten once an Italian place in NYC and it's gone now. What would lend itself (down here) to being more what you are looking for?

              3 Replies
                1. re: rockycat

                  Possibly... I wish there were places like Manganaro's Foods & Restaurant still around or at least getting more attention.. (I'm not saying the food is the greatest.. I've not been but the history and all.. ) Say what you will about Mr. Bourdain, but I feel like I got slighted on seeing the real NY. Since the majority of the times I've been up there it was "Disneyfied". I'm not saying there aren't good places around but the nostalgia is hard to find in stead of defining..

                  1. re: rockycat

                    I drive by the location almost daily - they did close the storefront, perhaps Decemberish?
                    There had a been a sign saying they would still do catering. I'll try to keep an eye out. But the market is definitely closed.

                    Edit: Re: Conti's

                2. I concur with the recommendation of Casa Carbone in the Oak Park Shopping Center in Raleigh - old-school red-sauce joint that is very good for what it is. They use good ingredients and stick to simple preparations - the bread isn't as good as when John Carbone used to make it on-premises every day, but it's family-owned and has been continuously reliable for 25+ years now. (I grew up in Oak Park.)

                  In terms of food quality - if you're familar with John's of 12th Street in the East Village in NYC, imagine it with much nicer decor and much friendlier staff. ;-)

                  1. I'm with most posters here. You're going to find great restaurants in the Triangle, but we just don't have the great Italian joints. I always eat Italian and Chinese when I'm in New York. I haven't been to Il Palio in forever but the one time I went for lunch the food was excellent. It was just a bit too stuffy for me there. I should really give it another shot - perhaps for the $35 3-course meal. Sounds tempting. I like Bocci's thin-crust pizza but haven't been too crazy about their other offerings. I know a lot of folks like Pulcinella in Durham for a traditional red-sauce place.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: suse

                      I've only been to Pulcinella 3 times, but it has hit the red sauce Italian spot every time.

                    2. I'm still trying to figure out what peoples ideas are on the places I listed (Conti's aside) as I've not been to the other places...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                        Haven't been in a while, but I've always liked Pop's. Pizzas, mussels, chicken under a brick... good stuff.
                        Tosca just seems too expensive. If I'm going to drop that much coin, I'd rather go to Panciuto.

                        1. re: gpatterson

                          Yes that may be true but between the two areas, I'm most certainly going to head towards Raleigh more often (usually for shows and performances).

                      2. Cinneli's, Vic's at Moore Square, Nina's in N. Raleigh are all good.

                        19 Replies
                        1. re: Fu Dee

                          Cinelli's isn't bad although I've certainly heard some disagree and I'm going to have to disagree with you about Nina's.
                          As a general comment, just because a restaurant claims that the owners are New Yorkers doesn't necessarily mean that they know anything about food or cooking any more than being Catholic makes you the Pope. Plenty of restaurants in NY really stink, too.

                          1. re: rockycat

                            Well, the OP said "favorite Italian in the Triangle". Those are the ones I like out of some very lousy choices.

                            I agree with you about the NY Italian thing - real Italian food is in Italy, and it barely resembles what passes for Italian in the USA and NY. Generally simpler and healthier.

                            1. re: Fu Dee

                              That is true and somethings change based on what the majority of customers will eat and is familiar to them (though I can't think that traditional Italian food would be as odd as say.. real Chinese for instance). It's the same with pizza but maybe not as much so.. Speaking of which.. I heard talk of someone opening a pizza joint that may focus more on focaccia as pizza (more like flatbreads)... but don't hold me to that.

                              1. re: Fu Dee

                                Fu Dee, I was thinking the same thing. I've been trying to figure out if this thread is about Italian food or the New York red sauce joints. The latter can be very enjoyable, but I'm hoping for recommendations on the former. This thread would be more helpful if posters could clarify what type of "Italian" we're talking about here.

                                1. re: dinersaurus

                                  Panzanella and Piedmont are both more in the "italian" - not checked table cloth - mode.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    I would consider Piedmont to be more of an "italian" influenced restaurant and not straight Italian, either of the red sauce, or more high end northern italian type.

                                  2. re: dinersaurus

                                    Well someone said said Posta (in downtown raleigh ) was too expensive, but you could always give it a try for Raleigh Restaurant Week toward the end of the month.

                                    Just for my info what is a red sauce place?

                                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                      I think it just means most American Italian restaurants throw their red marinara sauce on most of their dishes. Like a diner throws brown gravy on everything.

                                      Whereas, real Italian cooking would incorporate many different ingredients
                                      in a variety of different sauces.

                                      1. re: Fu Dee

                                        It's an Italian-American restaurant that's heavy on the tomato based sauce. Their roots are in Southern Italy, but multiple generations and an ocean between here and there. So, something more likely to be found in a Brooklyn or Little Italy of your favorite US city than a Napoli or Salerno. If spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parm are the top sellers, you're probably in a red sauce joint.

                                        1. re: dinersaurus

                                          Gotcha.. a friend of mine from PA (who went to school in NY) likes Al Di La in Brooklyn, but I'm not sure if that would classify as a Red sauce place (those foods you mentioned seem like comfort food as opposed to a dish that may contain .. squid)

                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                            You'll find calamari at any Italian street festival worthy of its zeppole. Squid is not necessarily gourmet or "odd" in Italian home cooking.

                                            1. re: rockycat

                                              Many of the Italian Restaurants I have been to in Queens and Brooklyn have the focus on veal or seafood, must without Red Sauce. And, never pizza, that was for a pizzeria.

                                              My favorite growing up had about a dozen veal dishes all with a distinctive sauce and only a few containing tomatoes. You could pick out the tourists by who ordered veal parm or meatballs.

                                              To me this is what a neighborhood Italian is all about and what is not seen here all that much. Must have a pizzeria menu or throw the red sauce on everything.

                                              1. re: rockycat

                                                I didn't say it was odd. Just that I'm sure it is featured in more dishes that aren't as americanized (outside of calamari)..

                                                Well as was said Red Sauce came from a section of Italy while cream based sauces came from a different region.. I don't know if Puttanesca falls in to that latter part or not since it is mostly butter if I can remember off the top of my head.

                                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                  Puttanesca is a tomato-based sauce, distinguished by the addition of anchovies and olives that give it a tangy flavor. It is also thicker than other sauces as it is cooked down over a longer period of time. The name is strange, deriving from the Italian word for whore.

                                                  1. re: bbqme

                                                    The old story is that it was easy to make, and so if you paid for a whore, she'd fix you a plate of it after you finished your other business.

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      I thought the name came about because the dish was so fast to put together that the businesswoman could fix herself a meal quickly between customers.

                                                      1. re: rockycat

                                                        Can you imagine doing business after a plate of pasta with puttanesca? ; )

                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                          Maybe it's from the tangy aspect and that it is saucy. No I can't imagine that... mostly because I'd probably spill/splatter the sauce on some part o my clothing.. ;-) (just to keep it G rated)

                                  3. re: rockycat

                                    I'll admit that I'm a fan of Nina's also. My husband, who IS Italian, also likes it. But, as with everything, your mileage may vary.

                                2. Panciuto in Hillsborough is the beginning and end of my list for great Italian in the Triangle. Their recipes are top notch and they use fresh, local ingredients. It's not "meat and potatoes" Italian but more high end. Excellent atmosphere too that borders on a romantic setting.

                                  http://www.panciuto.com/

                                  1. Casa Linga (http://www.carlocasalinga.net/ ) is a great choice. It's located in the Mini City strip mall in North Raleigh on Capital Blvd. Carlo, the owner, is very accomodating and very friendly. Excellent service!

                                    1. "Gravy", a new place in downtown Raleigh has been getting good reviews. I haven't been yet, but their menu is here:

                                      http://www.gravyraleigh.com/index.php

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: meatn3

                                        Really?! I've heard mixed things about it to be honest. I haven't seen anyone post on this areas most hated restaurants which is surprising.. but maybe I've just been missing. A little off topic, but has anyone been to Sauced?

                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                          I'm clueless about your "most hated" reference...

                                          :-)

                                          1. re: meatn3

                                            It was a random stream of conscious (sorry I shouldn't post when I'm taking meds for head cold). I was saying that on other boards... they report on.. most disappointing restaurants as well as the "best for" "best place to get.." I guess because I had heard mixed reviews on Sauce, it lead me thinking down that road.

                                      2. Has anyone been to the Mambo Italiano place that Greg Cox recently described in the News and Observer?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                          I haven't been, but I found some of the quotes scary. Have you ever been to Little Italy? Even when I was a kid, some 35 years ago, it was nothing more than a fancied-up tourist trap. There haven't been many truly good Italian restaurants in Little Italy for decades. So saying that this restaurant is just like visiting Little Italy screams out "Stay away!" to me.

                                          New York Italian restaurants DO NOT have red-checked tableclothes and they do not try to convince you that family-style service is the norm. It is not. And the "charming" glass of sweet red wine served with a peach in it? The only place I have ever seen that is at the San Gennaro street fair in Little Italy. I have never once seen that in any restaurant in Brooklyn, Queens, or for that matter, Manhattan. I can't find an online menu for them so I can't comment on their selection and some of the reviews that I've read are clearly shills.

                                          Having said all that, it's entirely possible that the owners are simply not any good at doing their own publicity. It wouldn't be the first time we've seen that issue on this Board. For some reason, Apex seems to be drawing the better Italian-style restaurants in the area. Maybe this place is better than their PR makes them sound. I really, truly hope they are and, if they are, I'd love to hear about it.

                                          1. re: rockycat

                                            I was in Little Italy during my high school tenure and while I had a decent Italian meal (probably by some place mafia owned) all I can remember is walking down an alley-like street lined with little restaurants and each one had their own guy saying something akin to hey come eat here we got some amazing food for you...