Food & Drink

Pizza options multiply

How do you like your pizza? Traditional New York style or loaded with gourmet toppings? Whole pie or by the slice? Round or square crust? Take your pick; these new restaurants have got you covered.

When Edward and Eliane Tarantini took over the old Vincenzo's spot in Governor's Village, they inherited a brick pizza oven. But by the time they opened Tarantini (50160 Governor's Drive, Chapel Hill; 942-4240; www.tarantinirestaurant.com) the couple had refurbished the dining room, giving it a romantically cozy atmosphere that makes it clear that pizzeria is not what they're aiming for. Ristorante -- or at the very least, trattoria -- better describes the decor, as well as the 80-bottle wine list. Same goes for the menu, whose offerings include the likes of grouper piccata, veal saltimbocca, wild mushroom ravioli and gnocchi in tomato cream sauce.

But Tarantini is hardly a stuffy place. There's a kids' menu as well as a selection of panini for light appetites. The restaurant also offers New York-style pizza and gourmet pies with options ranging from classic Margherita to create-your-own combinations from a list of 18 toppings. You didn't think they'd let that brick oven go to waste, did you?

At Amici's (1305 NW Maynard Road; 467-0004), which opened late last month in Cary, the pizzas are square. Not square as in Sicilian style, but square as in 8-inch individual pies for adults, 6-inch for children. "We just wanted our pizzas to be a little different," says Al Kollar, who runs the restaurant with his son-in-law, chef Trey Smith. Kollar quickly adds that Amici's isn't really a pizzeria but a family-friendly neighborhood Italian restaurant "like the ones we had back in Pennsylvania."

The menu backs up that claim with a selection of pasta dishes and entrees ranging from fettuccine with clams to eggplant parmesan to house specialty lasagna rolls, filled with ricotta and served with the sauce of your choice. Kollar proudly notes that those sauces are made from scratch, as is virtually everything, including the meatballs. That's especially impressive, given that entree prices are in the $8-$9 range for a hefty serving and $6-$7 for lighter portions.

According to owner Adel Salem, owner of Euro's Pizza (10410-107 Moncreiffe Road; 405-4222) in Brierdale Shopping Center, it's the secret sauce that makes his pies special. Understandably, Salem declines to divulge any details about the ingredients in his sauce, but says, "It's not too spicy, not too sweet. You have to taste it, and then you'll know how good it is."

There's no secret about topping options: There are 19 of them, as well as combinations ranging from Chicken Alfredo to Mediterranean (red peppers, green olives, artichoke hearts, feta and Jack cheeses). A casual counter service eatery, Euro's also offers a modest selection of salads, stromboli, subs and wings.

Or maybe you'd prefer to have a fresh-baked pizzeria pizza at home. Papa Murphy's (3639 SW Cary Parkway; 439-2255; www.papamurphys.com) is what you're looking for. The Cary shop, the first Triangle location of a national chain, specializes in the rapidly growing take-and-bake concept: You order, they assemble, you take home and bake (easy directions included). And if you don't happen to live nearby, don't fret. More Papa Murphy's are in the works, starting with a location slated to open in May in the Shoppes of Kildaire.

Last week, I told you about Taste Carolina Food Tours, which conducts tasting tours of area restaurants and artisanal food producers. In response to that column, I got an email from Peter Eckle pointing out that Triangle Food Tour ( www.trianglefoodtour.com) has been offering similar tours of downtown Raleigh for about a year now. In addition to tastings from a wide variety of restaurants, tour highlights include informative visits to cultural and historic landmarks. Triangle Food Tour has recently added a tour of Chapel Hill/Carrboro, and a Durham tour is in the works.

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