In the mood for Italian, but your better half has a yen for sushi? Then hop into the car and head for Garner, where Capriccio 42 (5730 N.C. 42 West; 662-8272) can satisfy both your cravings. And if you think Italian and Japanese is an unusual combination, wait until you hear about the restaurant's Thai owners.
Chef/general manager Vichai Phasukkan cooked for 32 years in New York restaurants (including eight at the Saint Regis Hotel in Manhattan) before moving to North Carolina. Phasukkan owns two restaurants in the Pinehurst area: the upscale Table on the Green and Whisperwood Café, where pizzas are a local favorite. In addition to those thin, crisp-crusted pizzas, Capriccio 42's Italian menu offers a selection of pastas and entree options ranging from chicken marsala to grilled salmon topped with a garlic shrimp cream sauce. An assortment of entree salads and sandwiches on focaccia is available for lighter appetites or a quick lunch.
Wielding the knife behind the sushi bar is Phasukkan's partner, John Tanarat. Formerly sushi chef at Sushi-Thai in Cary, Tanarat brings with him a reputation for creative, artfully assembled specialty rolls.
Oh, and there's a sports bar, too, with half a dozen large plasma screens and all the usual suds and pub nosh suspects. The owners emphasize that Capriccio 42 is a family-friendly restaurant, though, so feel free to take the kids along.
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A few miles down the road in Fuquay-Varina, Peppermill Family Restaurant (129 N. Main St.; 557-8316) has a multicultural surprise of its own. Especially for fans of the Dalitsouris brothers, who have built a strong local reputation for Greek and Mediterranean cuisines at casually elegant restaurants such as Taverna Agora and the recently shuttered Mythos Bistro.
The brothers have taken a whole new tack with Peppermill's menu, an eclectic offering of all-American favorites and regional fare ranging from Reuben sandwiches to fried chicken with sawmill gravy. The extensive selection defies categorization, so here's a random sampling: meat loaf, Asian pecan sesame chicken salad, fried seafood platter, hot open-faced turkey sandwich, grilled pork chops, lasagna, Southern diner-style vegetable plate, London broil -- well, you get the idea.
If you're looking for a unifying theme for this culinary hodgepodge, you'll find one in affordability. Nearly everything on the menu sells for 10 bucks or less -- a concession to the current economic times, according to Pete Dalitsouris. It's a good bet that the quality will remain high, though, based on the Dalitsouris reputation to date. And if you're lucky, you might just find yourself dining at Peppermill when Greek-style roasted half chicken is the special.