Review – Carmine’s in Chapel Hill

outside Carmine's in Eastgate Shopping Center

Carmine's is tucked in a corner at Eastgate Shopping Center

Tucked away in a little corner of the Eastgate Shopping Center in Chapel Hill near the CVS is a little gem of a restaurant called Carmine’s.  As you walk down the sidewalk, there are tables outside and lush hanging plants, giving a feel of a European cafe.

Upon entering the restaurant, you will hear songs from the Rat Pack playing in the background. Big booths give a sense of privacy or you can eat at a table if you prefer.  I like going to Carmine’s because it seems like a good date night place to spend with my husband. We have eaten here several times and each time have been treated very well by the knowledgeable and friendly staff.

bruchettaThe other night, we went to eat at Carmine’s and ordered the Bruschetta for an appetizer. Large, thick slices of toasted bread were topped with fresh tomatoes, onions, basil , a little bit of corn and olive oil. The balsamic vinegar was drizzled over top. It was an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Wonderful!

penne ala vodkaI ordered the Penne Alla Vodka, which is the Penne pasta served with a creamy tomato and vodka sauce with just a little bit of spices added to the sauce. It’s a rich and creamy, soul-satisfying dish. I must admit that I think I liked the Pasta Antonia dish that my husband had last time we were here, which is very similar to the Penne Alla Vodka, but that dish also has sun-dried tomatoes that intensify the tomato taste, mushrooms and spinach. You can also add a protein, such as chicken or shrimp to either of these dishes.

eggplant dishMy husband had the Eggplant Parmigiana. The eggplant was sliced to nice, manageable pieces and are coated in fine bread crumbs and fried to a toasty golden brown. The pieces were coated with a marinara sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes, and melted mozzarella cheese. It was served with a side of spaghetti and the same marinara sauce. This is Italian comfort food at its best.

We also had a side house salad with mixed greens, red onions, tomatoes and cucumbers and nice chunks of crispy croutons with their creamy Italian dressing.  It was a good accompaniment to the pasta dishes.

three canollis drizzled in chocolate sauceWe thought we were too full for dessert, but decided to try the cannolis, because they sounded too good to pass up. They are made straight from Italy and are three nice sized cannolis with a rich creamy ricotta cheese filling. The fried shells had cinnamon in them and I must say these are as good as the ones I used to get in Little Italy in Cleveland.

The pizzas at Carmine’s also look really great, but we’ve been so excited to try all the pasta dishes that we still need to come back again to try a pizza.

The owners of the restaurant, Darius Robustelli and John Runge, grew up in Upstate New York and worked at one of the owner’s father’s Italian restaurant. No wonder they know what they are doing!

Carmine’s is open seven days a week.  They are located at 18-16 East Franklin Street in Eastgate Shopping Center in Chapel Hill. Call (919) 929-4300 or (919) 929-4350 for reservations or for more information.
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Jamie Nunnelly is a communications professional who has worked for companies such as General Motors, Tropicana Products, Inc. and Advantis Corporation and spent over a decade in economic development as the communications director for the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and the Research Triangle Foundation of NC. She published a quarterly magazine called "The Park Guide." Currently, she is the communications director for the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) and the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI). Jamie considers herself a bit of a "foodie," and loves to try all kinds of cuisine. She has traveled to places such as Colombia, Europe, Costa Rica, Alaska, Canada and Mexico. Jamie and her husband, Scott, have lived in the Research Triangle region since 1995.
Jamie Nunnelly
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