Restaurant News & Reviews

Italian recipes handed down

The latest round of restaurant news serves up a double helping of traditional New York Italian eateries featuring the owners' family recipes.

At Anna's Pizzeria (100 N. Salem St., Apex; 267-6237), menu categories are named for relatives of owner Yury Rojas. Under the heading "Mama Theresa's Old World Italian Dinners," you'll find all the classics, from eggplant Parmesan to veal Marsala. "Uncle Santo's Pasta Dishes" include a dozen variations on the theme, as well as an extensive mix-and-match pasta and sauce selection. Other categories include "Grandpa Luigi's Baked Dishes," "Cousin Carlo's Heroes," and -- naturally -- "Aunt Anna's Famous Pizzas," baked in brick ovens. Traditional New York style pizza, sold as a whole pie or by the slice, is the specialty. But the offering covers a broad spectrum, from the thin-crusted Grandma pizza to a hefty stuffed meat pie, with a few offbeat options (baked ziti and chicken Caesar salad pizza, to name two) in between.

A casual, family-friendly eatery with a small bar, Anna's owes its New York accent to the fact that Rojas recently moved to the Triangle from Long Island, where he still owns two Anna's Pizzeria restaurants. The restaurant is open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

In Chapel Hill, Darius Robustelli and John Runge quietly opened Carmine's (1800 E. Franklin St.; 929-4300; on Oct. 2 in the old Sal's Pizza spot. The partners' friendship goes back to their childhood days in Duchess County, about an hour and a half north of New York City. Many of the recipes they use at Carmine's were passed down from Robustelli's father, who has cooked in numerous Italian restaurants in New York.

Runge and Robustelli, who share kitchen duties, are proud of the fact that quality ingredients and scratch preparation are hallmarks of those old family recipes. The partners use San Marzano tomatoes in their house marinara sauce, for instance, and they bread the veal, chicken (fresh, not frozen) and eggplant by hand for parmigiana dishes. The same standards apply to the rest of the menu, which offers a brief but varied assortment of traditional antipasti, entrees, pasta dishes and New York style pizzas.

Carmine's is open daily for lunch and dinner, though the exact hours are still in flux. And if you're wondering the same thing I did: No, the restaurant is not named for the man who handed down the recipes or any other family member, for that matter. They chose Carmine's, according to the junior Robustelli, "because it's a nice Italian-sounding name."