Friday, January 25, 2008

Italian American in Raleigh

I grew up in a city with a large Italian American community and their delicious restaurants heavy on rich red sauces and great cannoli where the maitre'd packed a handgun. Pasta loaded w/ tomato sauce and cheese is such comfort food!

I noticed a dearth of such places when I moved to the south ten years ago. Even now, I've not found a place in Durham that quite fits the bill.

Last night I joined some girlfriends for dinner at an Italian restaurant in a strip mall in Raleigh called Casa Carbone. The place is nothing to look at and the menu was standard fare, so I was not expecting much, but OMG the eggplant parmesan was GREAT. I finally found my red-sauce-Italian-American-starch-with-cheese- comfort-food fix! I also liked the grouper puttanesca and the tiramisu. The bread wasn't very good and the house salad was basic iceberg with some romaine and cucumber. I can overlook these things for the fried eggplant cooked to sweet perfection and loaded up with tomato sauce and cheese. My friends tell me the pizza is good too.

I will certainly go back next time I need a red sauce on carb fix. If you are looking for upscale or avant garde, don't go. If you require beautiful table cloths and impeccable service, don't go. If you are offended by pats of butter wrapped in foil and "warm" bread that seems suspiciously microwaved, stay home for sure. But if you want to eat delicious eggplant parmesan, then go!

Raleigh certainly has plenty of restaurants worth checking out. I do not understand the parochial mindset that keeps Durham people in Durham, Raleigh people in Raleigh, and Chapel Hill people in Chapel Hill. Get in your car and drive, especially if you want to try something new.

11 comments:

varmintbites said...

Hah, I've been eating at Casa Carbone for over 15 years, and my wife and her family even longer. We've been friends of the Carbone and House families for ages. They bake their own bread (no, it wasn't microwaved), make a solid marinara, and their pizzas are really, really good. It's not as run-down as made out here, but it's not a real upscale place, either. It just has a bit of age on it. Give the lentil soup a try next time you're there -- always one of my favorites!

Kelly said...

I don't make it out to be run down. I simply say it is nothing to look at. It is a place to go for food, not atmosphere.

Vera said...

Have you ever been to Casa Linga on Capital Blvd? also in a strip mall. We had a surprisingly good lunch there one saturday...and off a buffet line no less! the line actually had a good selection of dishes and everything was fresh.

we had a fun conversation with the woman there, who told us they'd been there for 11+ years, and she and the ...erm...scarred older gentleman we saw in 20+ photos with Italian celebrities were tickled that some young people were interested in talking to them about their years there.

one of 2 places we will actually trek out to raleigh to eat at on a weekend...

Marsosudiro said...

Sounds great. I will suggest it the next time I'm with Wake County friends who want to eat dinner or lunch maybe(?) in Raleigh. Or else with you, since I don't seem to have many other Durham friends who are willing to drive to Raleigh for a meal :-)

Regarding parochialism, some of it is of course stupidity and laziness. As for me, I just really hate the drive on I-40. From downtown Durham to either downtown Chapel Hill or Raleigh takes about the same amount of time but the drives feel very different to me.

I think I wrote about this once. Oh, wait, I did!

http://archerpelican.typepad.com/tap/2006/04/carrbochapurham.html

As for "atmosphere" at the Casa, I think you'd agree that some folks would want to go there for atmosphere, for the days in which the Casa's simplicity is the kind of atmosphere they're looking for.

When you were in Playa del Carmen, did you always seek out the nice restaurants? Or did you sometimes enjoy the holes in the wall, and enjoy the fact that you were in an atmosphere of plastic chairs and napkin holders and the cook/owner/server all in one person? I suspect you enjoyed both.

Marsosudiro said...

Sounds great. I will suggest it the next time I'm with Wake County friends who want to eat dinner or lunch maybe(?) in Raleigh. Or else with you, since I don't seem to have many other Durham friends who are willing to drive to Raleigh for a meal :-)

Regarding parochialism, some of it is of course stupidity and laziness. As for me, I just really hate the drive on I-40. From downtown Durham to either downtown Chapel Hill or Raleigh takes about the same amount of time but the drives feel very different to me.

I think I wrote about this once. Oh, wait, I did!

http://archerpelican.typepad.com/tap/2006/04/carrbochapurham.html

As for "atmosphere" at the Casa, I think you'd agree that some folks would want to go there for atmosphere, for the days in which the Casa's simplicity is the kind of atmosphere they're looking for.

When you were in Playa del Carmen, did you always seek out the nice restaurants? Or did you sometimes enjoy the holes in the wall, and enjoy the fact that you were in an atmosphere of plastic chairs and napkin holders and the cook/owner/server all in one person? I suspect you enjoyed both.

Fritz said...

I love Eggg plant Parm over a bed of linguine. Very tempting to drive there...but

I hate driving to Raleigh. There are more idgits per square inch when you drive on 40 just past the airport than anywhere else in the state. Risk it at your own peril.
I like driving to Greensboro much more but sadly theres nuttin thar.LOL

Kelly said...

M, My favorite meal in Playa was homemade tamales from a hole in the wall! I'll email you the info.

F, the easiest way to get to Carbone from Durham is take 147 to Alexander. Cut across to 70 and then take that to Ral. As long as you don't hit I-40 in rush hour or before a State game, it's not too bad.

Vera said...

Fritz

ever go to Bianca's in Greensboro? or Amalfi? those are nice family owned italian joints.

Greensboro actually has a nice selection of eateries...my fave Thai place is there--Rearn Thai on Market St

Anonymous said...

I would also recommend Pulcinella, in south Durham (Woodcroft Shopping Center).

Pulcinella is a mom&pop place with a decent wine selection and a bunch of regular customers. You can get pizza by the slice (great for the kids) and some excellent pasta dishes - spaghetti aglia y olio and belladonna are my faves. Friendly service, always.

--Lisa S.

Dave said...

I have to agree with anonymous. When you were describing the place in Raleigh, you could have been talking about Pulcinella. Nothing to look at, but for comfort Italian food, its great.

Jaime said...

i used to live in raleigh, and then in durham. i enjoyed casa carbone :) it isn't the place to go for that special occasion or anything, but i always enjoyed the food there. nice, authentic italian food. they have a great homemade ranch salad dressing too :)