The downtown Raleigh renaissance has just gotten a major boost in the form of the new Marriott City Center and its upscale Italian restaurant, Posta Tuscan Grille (500 Fayetteville St.; 227-3370; www.postatuscangrille.com). Just how upscale? Jeans and other casual attire are discouraged in the lofty Tuscan-accented dining room and 92-seat bar, for one thing.
For another, Posta's menu is geared toward fine dining, from power lunches to impress-your-date dinners with entrees in the $30 range and an extensive wine cellar that includes the area's best selection of Tuscan wines.
That's not to say that the atmosphere is stuffy, or that you can't dine well on a modest budget. If the $30 sea bass and the $36 veal chop are a bit too rich for your blood, you can choose from an ample selection of pastas in the $20 range, with smaller portions available for reduced prices. Light bite options include individual pizzas, antipasti and small plate offerings such as seared sea scallops and house-made veal sausages with cannellini beans in a light tomato sauce.
Posta Tuscan Grille is operated by Marco and Gianni Betti, brothers who carry Italian passports and big-time cosmopolitan credentials. Chef Gianni Betti left the family's original restaurant in Florence to open Posta. Betti's brother, Marco, manages the new restaurant, as well as Antica Posta in Atlanta (where a third Betti brother is chef).
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, with a limited menu available at the bar until midnight (1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).
In Wake Forest, Rocco's Italian Grill & Bar (3622 Rogers Road; 453-2227; http://roccosnc.com) is run by another pair of Italian brothers, whose names will be familiar to many. Gianni and Gaitano Cinelli, who own several Gianni and Gaitano's and Cinelli's restaurants in the area, have partnered with Joe Calvacca in their latest venture.
A casual eatery with a family-friendly atmosphere that's something of a cross between pizzeria and neighborhood pub, Rocco's sets the mood with bare tabletops and lots of booths, half a dozen beers on tap and a couple of flat screen TVs.
The menu follows suit with an offering of traditional veal, chicken, seafood and pasta dishes that will be familiar to fans of the Cinellis' other restaurants. New York-style pizzas are also available, as well as the family's locally famous thin-crusted Grandma's Pizza. Rocco's is open for lunch and dinner daily.