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Best Italian preferably near RDU

  • d

I've searched and read a few threads but we are flying out of RDU in a few weeks and I'm looking for the current, best Italian cuisine in the Raleigh/RDU area. I'm looking for something that can compete with the best family owned NJ Italian restaurant. Where should we go to be delighted?

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  1. I suggest flying RDU to EWR.

    Bella Monica in Raleigh (near the RBC Center). Caffe Luna (more upscale) downtown Raleigh.

    Pulcinella in Durham - near I-40 exit 274.

    Carmine's in Chapel Hill.

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    Pulcinella Restaurant
    4711 Hope Valley Rd, Durham, NC 27707

    Bella Monica Restaurant
    3121 Edwards Mill Rd, Raleigh, NC 27612

    Caffe Luna
    136 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601

    3 Replies
    1. re: boaviagem

      Have heard good things about Bella Monica but never been there. Casalinga Ristorante on Capital Blvd is also quite good even with it's strip mall location. Gravy on Fayetteville is a good overall experience and you're right in the thick of things in downtown Raleigh.

      Overall, don't get your hopes too high for Italian food in the Triangle, Dave.

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      Bella Monica Restaurant
      3121 Edwards Mill Rd, Raleigh, NC 27612

      1. re: RonboNC

        What have you liked at Casalinga? I was there once for a friends birthday and haven't been back. It seemed half of the group loved it, the other half did not. Perhaps I ordered their weaker offerings?

        1. re: meatn3

          The Eggplant Rolatini at Casalinga was excellent. The lunch buffet is nice because you can try a variety of things. It's hearty. The restaurant has soul, which is accentuated by the fact that it is a bona fide hole-in-the-wall. The staff is warm. I like it.

    2. The great Italian restaurant that you are seeking does not exist in the Raleigh-Durham area. We have terrific dining here, but I suggest you make your choices based on our local specialties, rather than on what you would hope to find in New Jersey.

      1. It's been a while since I've been, but I think Vic's at city market downtown Raleigh does a good job. I'm from northern NJ.

        1. What about Bella Mia in Cary for coal fired pizza? Best of class for the area and relatively close and a straight shot from the airport?

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          Bella Mia
          2025 Renaissance Park Pl, Cary, NC 27513

          1 Reply
          1. re: Guilty Gourmand

            That's what I was thinking. It's just one exit from Aviation Pkwy (on Harrison Avenue).

          2. EWR would get me to better food but we are headed to Mexico. ;)

            I would prefer a meal over pizza. We can get real NY Pizza at Luigi's in Morehead. It has been depressing recently being disappointed by a number of restaurants...

            1 Reply
            1. re: DaveN

              You might be able to get real NY Pizza in Morehead, but real Neopolitan coal fired pizza at Bella Mia will change your world. It'll make you feel good all the way to Mexico.

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              Bella Mia
              2025 Renaissance Park Pl, Cary, NC 27513

            2. Went to Vic's Ristorante Italiano at City Market in Raleigh tonight, since it had been so long. The pizza is terrific--Neapolitan style. My father had the mussels marinara and really enjoyed them. The little garlic knots they give you in lieu of bread can be a little strong, but you can ask for them without the garlic/oil glaze.

              We only had a light dinner tonight, so no pasta, but it appears from what I saw on other plates at other tables, their standards are still great.

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              Vic's Ristorante Italiano
              331 Blake St, Raleigh, NC 27601

              1. Bella Mia's Pizza is first rate and certainly worth a trip, as they serve plenty of other things to make a meal out of. I also would throw in Vivace as an option. Great wine list and drink program, very good service, nice dining room and solid food.

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                Bella Mia
                2025 Renaissance Park Pl, Cary, NC 27513

                1. I really don't like Bella Monica or Caffe Luna. Never have eaten well in either place. Caffe Luna serves bland food. Bella Monica has good mussels and pretty good pizza, but I was brought once a dish of polenta drenched in balsamic vinegar that was truly vile, and a dish of braised brussels sprouts that were nearly raw. REALLY put me off this place. .

                  On a more positive note, Vivace is OK, though not as good Italian as their companion restaurant Coquette is French. I like La Volta on Fayetteville Street, and Gravy a couple of blocks away, if you order carefully. Some folks whose taste I respect say a new place, Tuscan Blu, near The Pit, is good.

                  Greg Cox, our local newspaper's restaurant reviewer, says Panciuto in Hillsborough is the best Italian restaurant in the Triangle. I've not been there but its on my list.

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                  Bella Monica Restaurant
                  3121 Edwards Mill Rd, Raleigh, NC 27612

                  Caffe Luna
                  136 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601

                  Panciuto
                  110 S Churton St, Hillsborough, NC 27278

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: jnwall

                    Personally I'd skip Panciuto. Went there a couple weeks ago for my birthday and it was not. good. at all.

                    Was also not particularly impressed the first time we went there a few years back - the food was good then, but not spectacular and I feel it's overpriced.

                    Just recently went to La Volta for the first time at the end of January and thought it was pretty good.

                    1. re: jnwall

                      I was excited to hear that there is a new Italian place near the Pit, but after looking at the menu, I'm a bit suspicious of it. I'll give it a try, but is it too much to ask for a restaurant that puts "Tuscan" in the name to actually have a Tuscan focus? The menu includes chicken parm, cream of broccoli soup, lobster bisque, salad Nicoise, and brie on the lunch cheese plate. Of all the great cheeses in Italy, they put French brie on the list. Where's the boar? Where's the rabbit? With all the steak on the menu, at least do one Florentine style.

                      It looks like the same menu nearly every Italian place in the area has.

                        1. re: dinersaurus

                          I stopped in a at Blue a while back for it's opening event, as an FYI the chef there (Maurizio) left Caffe Luna to start up this place. He's definitely the real deal Italian but I can't attest to the menu, haven't been able to stop in for a meal yet...

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                          Caffe Luna
                          136 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601

                          1. re: RonboNC

                            If he's really Italian then it is even more ludicrous that he's got a menu with the above but not a florentine steak on the menu and is calling the place Tuscan Blu. maybe dumbing down for the non-Italians?

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              I understand how restauranteurs can feel pressure to dumb things down, but if he's a real-deal Tuscan (I read that he's from Livorno), then it's a missed opportunity to do something unique and distinctive. I can get chicken parm (which is American as apple pie) anywhere, so why would I come here? Give us what you got in Livorno or Firenze or Lucca or Montalcino or any of those wonderful little Tuscan towns, not what Maggianos is throwing out there by the metric ton.

                              1. re: dinersaurus

                                Perfectly put. Anyone whose been to Tuscany is going to be awfully disappointed.

                                1. re: dinersaurus

                                  Unfortunately sometimes you just have to give the public what they want. I've never owned a restaurant but know it's a labor of love. Unfortunately love don't pay the bills, staff or supply company. So yes, it's unfortunate that there may not be more traditional/authentic items on the menu but there may be very real reasons behind it.

                                  I did get a chance to chat with him and his wife briefly so yes, I'm pretty sure they are Italian from the mother-country Italian. Give the place some time and if he develops a customer base that asks for more, who knows? As I've said before, the Triangle area still has a ways to go with authentic ethnic cuisine, I've got my fingers crossed!

                        2. I like Casa Carbone off Glenwood Ave between The Mall and Duraleigh Rd. Ate at Gravy a few weeks ago andloved that. Eaten at casalinga twice andboth were fine, notgreat not bad.

                          1. Casalinga is on Capital Blvd. They have a lunch buffet that features several authentic items that my pallet hadn't been introduced to. If you are in Raleigh and want Italian around lunchtime, you MUST go to Casalinga for their lunch Buffet! I copied some info for you:
                            4538 Capital Blvd
                            Raleigh, NC 27604-4353
                            (919) 873-1334

                            1. I've already written a post for Vivace, which is good but not great. If we are getting farther afield, Il Palio is still a very good option. The chef does a great job using locally sourced ingredients and the prices are reasonable considering products used. A little farther from RDU, but worth a trip based on recent meals.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: veganhater

                                Thanks for all of the advice. Just wanted to update everyone.

                                We had a hectic week and decided to keep it simple with pizza close to airport. We went to Bella Mia. The overall experience and the pizza was disappointing. We arrived a little before 7:00 p.m. on a Friday night. The wait was 45 minutes. Sitting at a bar table we had a beer while waiting. The appetizer choices were limited and very expensive for the miniscule portions that we observed around us. More than 45 minutes later after seeing people that had arrived after us seated we asked about our table. It appears that we had been forgotten. We were seated in another 10 minutes.

                                The pizza was alright but it is not in the league of Grimaldi's. I have never seen anyone play with a pizza so much during cooking. While entertaining to watch the pizza man, I was surprised by the oven action. Ingredients were good but I found the crust had a burnt taste. Yes, I have had wood burning oven pies before even at the aforementioned mecca of pizza. I had no interest in eating the crust, which is the opposite of most pizzas, and it really killed the pie for me.

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                                Bella Mia
                                2025 Renaissance Park Pl, Cary, NC 27513

                                1. re: DaveN

                                  Your crust experience surprised me as the two pizzas I've had so far from Bella Mia had the best crust I've found in NC. Was it actually burnt, or did it just have an off flavor?

                                  1. re: DaveN

                                    I actually thought the Bella Mia crust was pretty darn good ( I like a bit of char). Where Bella Mia misses in my estimation is the sparseness of the toppings. We ordered one of the more expensive pies and were served mostly naked cheese with a small amount of stuff spread about. Real chintzy.

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                                    Bella Mia
                                    2025 Renaissance Park Pl, Cary, NC 27513

                                    1. re: DaveN

                                      Good info on Bella Mia. This place was recommended to me recently but I haven't yet ventured over to try it yet - will probably wait a little longer based on this info.

                                      But I will tell you that we don't have any pizza here that competes with Grimaldi's - and I mean not even close.

                                      If you're ever in town again, another Italian place close to RDU is Nina's Ristorante in the Harvest Oaks shopping center at the corner of Leadmine Rd and Harvest Oaks Dr. (just down from the Leadmine/Strickland Rd intersection). White tablecloth Italian with entrees $14-$26.

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                                      Nina's Ristorante
                                      8801 Lead Mine Rd, Raleigh, NC 27615

                                      Bella Mia
                                      2025 Renaissance Park Pl, Cary, NC 27513

                                  2. Went back to Grimaldi's in Hoboken. That is great wood oven pizza. Crust underneath is not totally crisp but the flavors are delicious.