Category Archives: Italian

RECIPE: Grilled N.C. Tomato & Roasted Onion Gazpacho, Avocado Sorbet

I was searching for some recipes for North Carolina tomatoes and came across the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services website which has some pretty cool recipes from local North Carolina restaurants. The following recipe is from their tomato page as a marketing tool. It was from the kitchen at the now defunct Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana which closed in February after a dispute between the restaurant owner (son) and property owner (father). The son, chef Anthony Cerrato, has since opened Strada in Asheville.

Here is the recipe:

Grilled North Carolina Tomato & Roasted Onion Gazpacho, Avocado Sorbet

  • 4 Yellow NC tomatoes
  • 4 Red NC tomatoes
  • 1 seedless cucumber
  • 2 medium red onions
  • ¼ t kosher salt
  • 1/8 t fresh black pepper
  • ¼ t celery salt
  • 1 ½ T Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Peel and cut onion into ¼ inch rings. Lightly coat with olive oil and roast in a 350-degree oven until very tender. Remove from oven and allow to completely cool.

Cut all of the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices.  On a low flame, grill the yellow tomatoes, approximately 45 seconds on each side. Immediately remove and place into a bowl and allow to cool.

Finely julienne and dice the cucumber.    Small chop the roasted onion.

Combine all of the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Avocado Sorbet

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and “turn” in an ice cream maker until set. Keep covered in the freezer.

To serve: Place 6 ounces of gazpacho into each bowl. Top each with one quenelle of sorbet. Garnish with chive stems.

REVIEW: Capra’s Deli – High Point

Deli sandwiches have been playing a huge role in my on-the-go eating lifestyle lately as I try to keep up with my hectic schedule which hasn’t really revolved around food like everything in life should. Mostly, it has been the cheap & quick (Jersey Mike’s, Jimmy John’s, Harris Teeter, & NOT Subway because that place is a joke). I must have gotten used to the generic sandwiches that I could crush in the car when I didn’t have time to stop in anywhere for a 30 minute lunch.

My mom was the first person to take me to Capra’s Deli back when I was growing up. Back then, I probably was screaming at her to take me to Subway because I wanted a meatball sub or something stupid that little kids say. She probably told me that I could get a meatball sub at Capra’s and I didn’t care because there wasn’t a comic book store located next to Capra’s. I was an idiot. Luckily, she didn’t succumb to my whining and we went to Capra’s and I tried their meatball parmigiana sub. It was in a completely different league than Subway’s version.

Capra’s Deli has a small market in the restaurant with a bunch of high end spreads, a deli case and a take and bake case. They also offer a variety of pastas that you can eat in-store. There is a gelato case with a few rotating flavors and a dessert case with items like cheesecake, baklava, cannoli and tiramisu. I have yet to try any of the sweets at Capra’s but I imagine they are delicious.

The ‘Italian II’ (Salami, Mortadella, Proscuittini, Provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions and o/v) has been my go-to order at Capra’s for the two years that I did a lot of business right down the street from there. The sandwich comes with thick cuts of Boar’s Head meat & cheeses which they have been serving long before Boar’s Head was easily accessible at your grocery store’s deli. They toss on a combination of crisp onions, shredded lettuce and tomato slices on top of the meat. The bread is probably the showoff part of the sandwich. The crispy, flaky Italian bread

There are two things that really stand out about Capra’s Deli for me. First, I enjoy the attention to detail that they give each order. My sandwich has never been tossed together sloppily or hurriedly like it does at the chain places. Second, the high quality of the ingredients is something that puts them leagues above the rest. The complimentary chips that come with the sandwiches are lacking a little bit but you can always upgrade to one of the deli salads for $0.95. I will be going back sometime soon and will be ordering either a steak & cheese or the Luigi Special…or I just may stick with my ol’ faithful, the Italian II. It’s so damn good.

Capra’s is located between High Point and Greensboro on Highway 68. It is only about 2 or 3 miles off of I-40 (exit 210) and would be a great place to stop in from a road trip. I would recommend that you eat it at the restaurant because a Capra’s Deli sandwich is not the easiest thing to consume on the road due to size and the flakiness of the bread. The sandwich prices are right in line with Jersey Mike’s and this is not the kind of place serving Five Dollar Footlong quality. You definitely get your money’s worth at Capra’s and I am sure that you won’t be disappointed.

Capra's Italian Deli Products on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Caffe Peroni – South Boston, VA

Jim W. on

I have been making a few trips outside of the North Carolina state lines to Virginia for work and, as always, I am on the lookout for good local eateries. I usually jump on my phone and hit up Urbanspoon and Foodspotting to see what restaurants everyone is talking about in the area. I have run across some decent places so far but nothing worth blogging about until I went up to South Boston, VA a few weeks ago and found out about a place called Caffe Peroni in downtown South Boston.

The 95% Urbanspoon rating was what stood out first to me about Caffe Peroni followed by one or two reviews which mentioned the “slow food movement” that Caffe Peroni has incorporated into its cooking so you can sit back and enjoy the restaurant instead of “being served, billed and thanked in less than 20 minutes” like Bath Piatti wrote in their review on Urbanspoon. I had about 2 hours before I had to be anywhere and it sounded like a good way to check out some local food and kill some time.

Caffe Peroni has been open in South Boston since 2008 and the owners’ intention was to recreate the Italian home cooking that they remember from their childhood. They start every meal from scratch when ordered plus the chef cooks it right in front of you in an open air kitchen near the dining room (I took a picture of this but it turned out blurry).

As soon as I stepped through the door at Caffe Peroni, I had the feeling it was going to be a neat place to eat at. There was a young couple already seated enjoying an early dinner which was surprising because it was 4:45 p.m. and I tend to beat even the early birds when I eat dinner while out on the road. The space that Caffe Peroni fills reminds me a lot of an old bookstore minus all the books. It had a very relaxed atmosphere where you could come do some work on the computer while having a coffee or just curl up and read a book on one of their couches while munching on a little bit of gelato.

I ordered the Insalata della casa ($3.95) which came with a bottle of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing. I believe that you can choose from a variety of dressings but I was trying to be health conscious since I already knew what my entree was going to be. The presentation of the salad was nice and the ingredients were fresh as well as plentiful which is what I look for in a salad. They diced the tomatoes & onions then tossed them together with some Parmesan and croutons on then laid it over the lettuce. Each bite had a little bit of everything from the salad in it. I might be doing this at home from now on when I make salads.


I ordered the Porcini Ravioli cremolati which is a ravioli dish made with porcini mushrooms and then placed in a heavy cream sauce. Caffe Peroni’s version adds a good amount of pancetta and prosciutto making it a little bit heartier that usual. The prosciutto that they added wasn’t the thin, sticky type that you find in the grocery store or on sandwiches from national chains. This was close to the thickness of sliced ham for a sandwich and it not only added a delicious salty taste to the dish but also added a great texture to contrast the softness of the ravioli. (NOTE: Prosciutto dipped in cream sauce can become heavily addicting.) The pancetta in the dish mainly sunk to the bottom of the cream sauce so I didn’t start getting to mix its taste in until about halfway through the meal but it was worth it when I hit the proverbial gold mine of pancetta.

The highlight of the dish for me was the ravioli which was cooked al dente but was still soft enough that a knife was unnecessary. I have been a big mushroom fan since back in the day more than likely because I saw Mario eat them while trying to save peach and gain superpowers. In hindsight, I am pretty sure that Mario was munching on hallucinogenics the entire time as its the only logical explanation for the storyline…but I digress. The filling had a lot of taste that was overshadowed a bit by the cream sauce but I was able to pull some out of one of the pockets and it had a fantastic taste on its own which could allow it to be served with a lighter sauce if you weren’t feeling the cream. The dish was loaded with 16-20 ravioli pieces making it a behemoth of a meal and I was very surprised with myself that I was able to finish it.

Everything about my experience at Caffe Peroni was amazing. The service was outstanding. The food was on target. The atmosphere was friendly and warm. The holiday lights in downtown South Boston were stunning in that Mayberry sense that a small town can have. I couldn’t have asked for a better overall experience at a restaurant and I have since recommended to various couples in the Greensboro area that I know to head up to South Boston one night on a date night because it would be well worth the 30 to 45 minute drive.

Caffe Peroni on Urbanspoon

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.
Carmine's on Urbanspoon

LINK: My review of Alleia in Chattanooga, TN for Eat It, Tennessee

I did a little guest writing for our sister site, Eat It, Tennessee, and it was just posted recently. The photo above is of the wood-fired pork shoulder with a grilled peach and balsamic whose taste rivaled that of many of the delicious pork shoulders that I have had here in North Carolina.

Head over and check out my review of Alleia in Chattanooga from a few weeks ago on Eat It, Tennessee. It was a delicious experience and I had a great time writing the post for my buddies in Tennessee. Thanks again for the opportunity!

Review – Bella Donna’s in Pittsboro

Donna Bianco

Donna Bianco, chef and owner of Bella Donna's

My friends and I wanted to get together to celebrate with a couple of friends who recently had their birthdays. We were looking for an intimate, yet fun setting in which to celebrate.  We decided to meet at Bella Donna’s in Pittsboro.

Donna Bianco, owner of Bella Donna’s, is a very enterprising woman. She originally opened Bella Donna’s as a combination of a charter school, called Our Neighborhood School,  and a restaurant. When I first went to her place, it was take out only. I remember eating her lasagna, which was a rich,  meaty marinara sauce smothered in lovely layers of pasta and melted mozzarella and generous portions of ricotta cheese. I also ordered a few pizzas from the “Our Neighborhood Pizza” window, where you may sometime see students making the pizza. The pizzas at Bella Donna’s are wonderful. The crust is not too thin nor too thick, but somewhere in the middle. You can smell the garlic as you pull up to the restaurant, which means this is a great Italian restaurant.

Donna prides herself in using as many local ingredients as possible. She knows many of our local farmers in Chatham County and other nearby counties. She uses Lindley Mills Flour from Graham for her pizza dough, her meatballs and hamburger toppings come from Lilly Den Farm in Goldston and her eggs that are used for the pasta dough and egg wash are from Eastwick Farm in Pittsboro.

She makes all of her pasta, bread and sauces from scratch, reminding many people of their Italian grandmas. Much of the success of her restaurant is due to her warm and generous personality. She is an owner who cares about her customers deeply and her welcoming nature makes people feel immediately at home when they come to her restaurant. She also mentored Angelina Koulizakis-Battiste and encouraged her to open Angelina’s Kitchen, which will be reviewed here in the near future.

people at Donna Bellas

Celebrating birthdays at Bella Donna's

The restaurant is small, with about eight tables. It’s perfect for a romantic dinner, or a gathering of a small group of friends. Our group was a bit large. We had 10 people, but they were still able to accommodate us. Most of Donna’s wait staff are local high school students, again because she likes to give young people an opportunity to gain real world experience. Our waitress and waiter were both very attentive and friendly.

pizza at Donna Bella

The pizzas are one of the main features at Bella Donna's

A group of our friends got one of the pizzas with ham, jalapeño, olives and onions on it. They raved about the great sauce and crunchiness of the crust. They also ordered mushrooms stuffed with sausage, which, for mushroom lovers, looked like a great bet. The mushrooms were quite large and filled with a generous portion of the sausage filling. I’m not a big mushroom lover though, so I did not try them myself.

eggplant parmesan

eggplant parmesan

Another friend ordered the eggplant parmesan. My husband and I were sorry we didn’t get this dish when we saw his arrive. There were several very large slices of eggplant that were slightly breaded and generously coated in mozzarella and Donna’s famous red sauce. It was served with a side of spaghetti.

chicken piccata

Chicken Piccata al Limone

I ordered the chicken piccata al limone, which featured a nice, big piece of chicken breaded and lightly fried to a perfect golden brown. It was served with a side of linguine and a sauce of white wine, lemon, capers, and parsley. I had enough left for a second meal.

Another friend had the pasta ribbons, which was freshly made pasta served with cherry tomato sauce and basil, topped with lots of parmesan cheese. He also added spinach to his. I had a bite and was really impressed with the tomato sauce. It tasted like the cherry tomatoes had just been picked and put into the sauce.

The pizzeria also has a “make and bake” pizza. They put all the ingredients you need in a pizza box, including a dough ball, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and as many toppings as you’d like. You take it home, assemble it and throw it in the oven.  The price starts at $7.95 for just a cheese pizza. Not a bad deal when you are busy and want to have a nice meal at home.

Bella Donna’s is located in downtown Pittsboro, at 87 Thompson Street. They are open 11am – 8pm Monday to Thursday, 11am – 9pm Friday and 4pm – 9pm Saturday.

Bella Donna on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Osteria Cicchetti – Wilmington


Osteria Cicchetti, known to locals at The O.C., is one of Wilmington’s best known Italian restaurants. The menu isn’t extremely large which is sometimes a good thing because the kitchen can focus on perfecting the smaller amount of items on the menu. They serve a variety of pasta dishes, pizza, salads, antipasti and cold dishes (brushchette, spreads, cicchetti, formaggi & sallumi.

The interior of the restaurant looks like a Venice sidewalk at night which is dimly lit by scattered street lamps throughout the dining room. It has that old world Italian feel that gives it a sense of romanticism. I tried to get a few shots of the interior but it was a little too dark for my camera to get anything worthwhile to post. We were in town for an engagement party so I went out with a few of my friends (Will, Jordan, Elliot, Ashley and Dan) to get a nice dinner before the party.

We ordered calimari ($8.75) which came with marinari and pepperocini aioli dipping sauces. It was a great appetizer.  The squid was flash-fried and covered in a salty, spicy breading which was only complimented when dipped in the pepperocini aioli. They fried them perfectly so that the exterior was crispy and the interior was tender and not chewy.

Osteria Cicchetti serves some delectable, complimentary bread up with olive oil and spices for dipping. They served two different types of bread: one was a pane carasau (flat bread) and the other was a hardened Italian loaf. I love complimentary bread and would actually go back just for drinks and appetizers so I could get some of this bread again.

Elliot ordered the Meatballs Napoli ($6.00) which is two baseball sized meatballs covered in melted mozzarella and then served in a bowl full of Napoli sauce which is basically a chunkier version of marinara sauce. I got a few bites of these and would definitely order them again the next time I go. I almost ordered the spaghetti and meatballs for dinner but figured I would try something else since I was planning on reviewing it for the blog.

I ordered the Rigate Melanzane which is shell-shaped pasta with eggplant and fontina & mozzarella in a pomodoro sauce. It was good but, in hindsight, I would have gotten something with a little bit more substance (read as: seafood, chicken, steak). It is an good vegetarian selection with a lot of flavor. The portion was massive. My one issue with the dish was that it seemed like it was a little oily but that didn’t stop me from almost finishing it. My apologies for the bad picture. I took a few and none of them turned out very well.

I would definitely go back to Osteria Cicchetti the next time that I am craving Italian food when I am down in Wilmington. It was a great experience and very reasonable priced for such a nice restaurant. This is definitely a great spot for a family get together or a date. Check it out. I think you will like it.

Osteria Cicchetti on Urbanspoon


REVIEW: Marabella Old World Pizza – Greenville

I was distraught to hear that my favorite pizza restaurant from college, Big Apple Pizzeria, had closed down. It was always there for me on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I was craving some $0.99 New York-style cheese slices. They closed the doors about a year after I graduated so it wasn’t as painful as it could have been because I only had to deal with the pain during football seasons and occasional random weekends when I would make the trip to Greenville to feel young again.

It sucks that it is closed but I was happy to see a new pizza joint open up in its spot. It is the second location for Marabella Old World Pizza based out of Little Washington (about 35 minutes from Greenville) and I was told before going there that their pizza wouldn’t disappoint. I got into Greenville late and hadn’t eaten dinner so I headed up to Marabella to grab a slice or two while I waited on my friend, Hot Sauce, to get back to his house.

Marabella didn’t really change the set up of the restaurant at all. They pretty much just moved into the Big Apple space and painted the walls, tossed up some Italian decor and installed some flat screens which were much needed. Since it was a Thursday, I was hoping that they were running the same cheese slice special as Big Apple but they weren’t. However, they do have a student special on Mondays and Tuesdays which is two slices and a drink for $5.00 which I think I would be hitting up if I was still in school there. Sadly, this might be reason enough for me to think about going back to graduate school.

I got two slices: cheese and pepperoni. The crust was a bit thick but had a great consistency throughout it including a great crunch in every bite. The sauce and cheese were what stood out the most. Marabella is using top of the line ingredients and you can tell from the first bite until the last. The pepperoni slice was a little greasy but that is what you expect when ordering it.

We ended up ordering some more Marabella on Sunday before NFL kick-off as we all laid crippled on the couch from imbibing a little too much at the bar the previous night. Thank God they delivered because I don’t think any of us could have made it off the couch. I split a steak & cheese with my friend, Bumgeez, and it was decent but I don’t think I would order it again.

If you like pizza, Marabella is a great stop. It is definitely one of the best by-the-slice places I have been to in Greenville and the fact that they deliver should be on top of any college student’s mind.

Marabella Old World Pizza on Urbanspoon

Related Posts with Thumbnails