It takes courage to open a restaurant these days, especially in a location where several eateries have failed. When that restaurant is a pizzeria two blocks off Glenwood South, where you can get a pepperoni pie on practically every corner, now that's downright audacious.
If anyone can pull it off, it's Chris Candes, who opened Ciago's (522 St. Mary's St.; 834-9499) in late June in the building that was formerly home to an ice cream shop, a barbecue joint and a couple of seafood restaurants. Candes, who owned Two Guys on Hillsborough Street for decades before selling the restaurant in 2007, has a proven track record and a loyal fan base.
Candes clearly knows the local restaurant scene, too, and has distinguished his restaurant from the nearby competition in a number of ways. The menu, for starters, goes far beyond the usual pizzeria fare to include an eclectic assortment of appetizers (sautéed mussels, eggplant bruschetta and buttermilk onion rings, to name a few), sandwiches (homemade meatball sub, fried green tomato BLT, portobello gyro) and entrees (crab cakes, honey-glazed salmon, grilled rib-eye). Naturally, longtime fans of Candes' New York style pizzas and pastas (including his signature lasagna and spaghetti with homemade meat sauce) won't be disappointed.
Teaming up with Bobby Lewis, who owns the property, Candes has given the building a makeover, converting the dining room from counter service to upscale-casual table service with a full bar (including 10 draft beers). The partners have made the best of the building's off-the-beaten-path location, too, transforming its sheltered wrap-around patio (with ceiling fans, thankfully) into an inviting alternative to the bustling Glenwood South scene.
Chicago pizza served
In Morrisville, Chicago transplants Jim and Judy Tackett have taken a different approach to setting their pizzeria apart from the crowd. Rosati's (3605 Davis Drive; 380-7000; www.rosatispizza.com) is the first Triangle location of a chain specializing in Chicago-style pizza.
Make that "Chicago styles," plural. In addition to the exceptionally thin, crackery-crusted pies that Chicagoans favor, the restaurant also serves the city's nationally famous deep dish pies, as well as a Rosati's specialty "double dough" pizza that resembles New York style. Stuffed pizzas aren't listed on the menu, but are available as a special order.
Unlike the Rosati's takeout shops that have been familiar to Chicagoans for five decades, the Morrisville location is a full service restaurant, complete with table linens and a bar that serves beer and wine. The menu also expands on the original offering with an entree selection of ribs, chicken, shrimp and pasta dishes.
The restaurant does preserve a key Rosati's tradition, though: Dough is made fresh daily, sauce is homemade, cheese and sausage are trucked in from Chicago, and produce is bought locally.