In the mood for Italian? These newcomers broaden your options considerably.
In downtown Raleigh, longtime Caffe Luna chef Maurizio Privilegi has struck out on his own with the opening of Blue (327-108 W. Davie St.; www.bluerestaurant.net; 834-5707) in the historic Depot building. Privilegi uses his native Livorno, a port city in Tuscany, as a springboard for diving into the Mediterranean with an offering that roams the coast from shrimp Posillipo to salade niçoise.
The chef sails into contemporary waters, too, with dishes such as mahi mahi Provençal, and occasionally comes ashore for the likes of mushroom sacchetti and rack of lamb. The focus is on seafood, though, served in a setting with a nautical motif.
In North Raleigh's rapidly filling Lafayette Village, Paparazzi (8450-B100 Honeycutt Road; www.paparazziraleigh.com; 890-0412) lives up to its name with a flashy mix of traditional and trendy fare served in a dramatic Old-World-meets-New-World setting. The star-studded culinary cast includes grilled rib-eye drizzled with truffle oil, cioppino with saffron aioli and lobster garnish, and rigatoni in braised short rib tomato sauce with Sicilian sheep's milk ricotta and fried hot peppers.
A wood-burning oven turns out pizzas with topping combinations ranging from potato, rosemary and Gaeta olives to guanciale, onion, gorgonzola, pear and balsamic reduction.
The vibe is decidedly more casual at Mulberry Street Italian Kitchen in Wake Forest (2101 S. Main St.; 554-3160). The menu is a bit more ambitious than the red-sauce-joint fare implied by the name. House-made pastas get top billing, with options ranging from meat lasagna to pappardelle with mushrooms and truffle oil to gnocchi with your choice of three sauces (tomato, bolognese and pesto cream). Pizzas - New York style, Sicilian, and a loaded-with-cheese "Queen Sicilian" - are also available.