Food & Drink

Italian takes a modern twist

Greg Hatem, the real estate developer whose efforts to preserve Raleigh's historic buildings have yielded savory side effects in the form of restaurants such as The Duck & Dumpling, The Pit, The Raleigh Times Bar and Sitti, is at it again.

Hatem has teamed with Bella Monica owners Corbett Monica and Trevor Chambers to open an Italian restaurant next door to Sitti in the Heilig-Levine building. The restaurant's name, Gravy (135 S. Wilmington St.; 896-8513; www.gravyraleigh.com), is Italian-American vernacular for that cuisine's ubiquitous pasta sauce.

But Gravy is most emphatically not your father's pasta joint. The partners lured Culinary Institute of America grad Roeh Lewit from California to develop a menu with a modern twist on Italian and Italian-American classics, from spaghetti Bolognese to baked ziti. Tagliatelli, gnocchi and lasagna noodles are homemade, and Lewit makes eight sauces -- er, gravies -- daily, using fresh produce and herbs. Even the tomatoes are fresh, not canned.

Gravy's offering also includes a handful of entrees (grilled spotted rose snapper and braised veal cheeks, to name two), as well as a varied selection of salads and starters ranging from mushroom risotto to a Caesar jazzed up with guanciale and white anchovies.

Gravy is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. The dining room is casually stylish in shades of tomato red and black. There's a full bar, a strong Italian-leaning wine list and a small but well-chosen selection draft beers. Prices are surprisingly modest given the quality of the offering, with most pastas about $12 and entrees in the $14 to $16 range. Also surprising, in light of the fact that Bella Monica's flatbreads are locally famous, is the fact that pizzas aren't on the menu.

If it's pizza you're after, head over to Chapel Hill, where Artichoke Basil Pizza (153 E. Franklin St.; 929-9119; www.artichokebasil.com) opened late last month. According to owners Yilmaz Bulut, Errol Jenghis and Muzaffer Uras, who come to the Triangle from New York, artichoke basil pizza is a big hit in the Big Apple.

But it's not the only topping combination available. You can create your own pie from a list of nearly two dozen toppings (including five chicken variations: Buffalo, grilled, BBQ, fried and plain), or choose from house combos ranging from Pesto Chicken to Hawaiian to the vegetarian California. A few of the pies (artichoke basil, margherita and cheese) are available by the slice. The offering also includes calzones, burgers, sandwiches and salads.

Artichoke Basil Pizza is a casual, counter-service eatery. Beer and wine will be available pending license approval. The restaurant's hours are a night owl's dream: Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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