Noodles or pasta? The difference is more than mere semantics at these two new Raleigh eateries.
At David's Dumpling & Noodle Bar (1900 Hillsborough St.; 239-4536; www.ddandnb.com), the restaurant's namesake specialties are Asian, and they're handmade. Among the doughy delights are pork and shrimp siu mai, roasted pork and dumpling egg noodle soup, braised beef with wheat noodles, and dry-sautéed egg noodles with Chinese greens. The menu also offers a selection of traditional stir-fries and chef's specialties such as steamed Chilean sea bass, poached shrimp and scallops, and filet mignon Chinois.
Some of those dishes will be familiar to fans of The Duck & Dumpling, where owner David Mao was chef/partner until retiring in February. Mao, who had owned and worked in a number of area restaurants since 1976, soon found retirement boring. He opened David's Dumpling & Noodle Bar in early August in the former Darryl's building, just in time for the opening of a newly spiffed-up Hillsborough Street. The new restaurant is more casual than The Duck & Dumpling, and prices are correspondingly lower, with noodle dishes in the $7-$9 range.
One thing that hasn't changed is David Mao's impressive energy level. His new restaurant is open for dinner nightly and for lunch every day but Saturday, and he plans to add late-night noodle bar hours soon. So much for retirement.
The menu takes on a decidedly more Western flavor at Pronto Pasta (404 E. Six Forks Road; 832-4404; www.prontopasta.com). Though the counter service eatery was inspired in part by chains such as Noodles & Co. (and prices are competitive with those chains), it's locally owned. Ed Schrage, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Jen, proudly notes that most everything at Pronto Pasta, from salad dressing to pasta sauce (though not the pasta itself), is made from scratch.
That includes the shrimp linguine with pesto cream, sausage rigatoni, braised beef with marsala cream and other Italian-accented dishes that make up the majority of the offering. Schrage will happily concede, however, that the inspired combination you come up with from the menu's "Build a Mac" section (where you create your own mac 'n' cheese combination from a mix-and-match selection of pastas, cheeses and other goodies) is your own creation.
Pronto Pasta is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.