Hillsborough gets two enticing eateries

CORRESPONDENTApril 20, 2011 

Even as gas prices approach $4 a gallon, Hillsborough has landed two new eateries that are sure to lure foodies to the historic town on the outskirts of the Triangle.

Barbecue fans are already making the pilgrimage to Hillsborough BBQ Company (236 S. Nash St.; 732-4647; hillsboroughbbq.com), which opened April 7. The attraction is Eastern North Carolina whole hog barbecue, cooked the old-fashioned way over hickory and oak.

The backup cast looks pretty tempting, too. The menu is evolving, but an early version was loaded with the likes of smoked jalapeño dip, pork nachos, and smoked chicken wings with blackberry barbecue sauce. And that's just for starters. Entrees, which come with your choice of two home-cooked sides, cover the smoky spectrum from brisket, baby back ribs and sausage to smoked salmon cake, chicken, turkey breast and pit-cooked rabbit. There's a veggie burger for those not so carnivorously inclined. Throw in some hushpuppies and homemade pies, and no wonder I-40 is getting crowded around dinnertime.

Some of that traffic is no doubt headed for historic downtown Hillsborough, where Antonia's (101 N. Churton St.; 643-7722; www.antoniashillsborough.com) opened in late March in the old Tupelo's space. The husband-and-wife team of Antonia Berto and Phillip Smith, who have been cooking together for more than 20 years, reunited with former partner Claudia Salvadore, naming Antonia's for a restaurant the three had operated for 24 years in Key West. Joining them in their latest venture is Naomi Lundahl, erstwhile owner of another Key West restaurant.

But don't look for conch fritters and key lime pie on the menu. The food here is strictly Italian - or more precisely, according to the website, "authentic regional Italian cuisine prepared with fresh and local ingredients." That translates to a streamlined but varied offering that includes involtini di pollo (chicken breast rolled with prosciutto, asparagus and fontina cheese), brasato di maura (top sirloin roast braised in red wine and herbs), and pastas ranging from fettuccine with mushrooms, peas and cream to lasagne alla Bolognese, available in full or half portions.

Antonia's bar lives up to the Italian-inspired, locally sourced philosophy, with a selection of Old World and New World wines, and local beers on tap.

Reach Greg Cox at ggcox@bellsouth.net.

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