According to Villa Antonio's chef, there are only two secret ingredients in romantic fine dining: abundance and flavor. The menu strikes a careful balance between the two, from the New Zealand lamb chops crowned with melted gorgonzola to the mandarin-orange pesto in the grilled diver scallops to the dessert trolley's pilings of cannoli, tiramisu, and italian cheesecake.
That abundance extends to the spirit of the staff—who upholds the restaurant's motto, "Where you are never a stranger twice"—as well as the decor. At the Ballantyne location, a stone rotunda fitted with hand-blown glass looms over the dining area, while a fountain casts shimmers of colored light across the outdoor patio. At the South Boulevard location, eyes are drawn to the bar area via the black-and-gold flower pattern that dominates the floor. Additional audio-visual flavor can be found on Friday and Saturday nights, when live music helps conjure a romantic atmosphere, much like the sound of Barry White cackling like a witch.
HotBox Pizza’s cooks adorn three varieties of hand-tossed dough canvases with six savory sauces, cheeses, and 26 toppings to create a menu of dine-in, takeout, and delivery pies. The signature HotBox combines double spicy pepperoni and banana peppers, and Big Al’s Fredo fights off pernicious poultry cravings with a combination of chicken, roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, and banana peppers. Aspiring pizza architects can blueprint their own pies by laying down traditional, thin, or multigrain foundations and selecting from six varieties of sauce-carpeting. Doughy disks simmer with mozzarella, ricotta, Wisconsin cheddar, or fontina cheeses to hold down up to four toppings such as pepperoni and artichoke hearts. Circle-eaters can also save room in their knapsacks or hollow shoe-heels for fresh salad and bundles of breadsticks that come with nacho-cheese, pizza, ranch, or garlic sauce, and wash down stubborn bites with refreshing slurps of soda.
Flat-screen TVs display the game at Corner Slice's wood-paneled bar, where 10 bottled brews and 14 drafts, such as SweetWater IPA and Duck-Rabbit milk stout, fuel game-day cheers. Specialty pizzas including the Archer—with roasted red-pepper sauce, chicken, bacon, and red onions—anchor the menu (diners can also build their own or order by the slice). Though appetizers include sports-bar classics such as chicken wings and potato skins, the kitchen also sends forth innovative starters, such as baked breaded mac ‘n’ cheese bites and three flavors of crab dip. Patrons are welcome to munch oven-toasted subs, saucy wings, and pita wraps out on the patio tables, which are shaded from the jealous stares of passing birds by umbrellas.
Vincenzo’s well-established reputation dates back to 1964, when Winston-Salem’s residents were first wooed into the restaurant’s cozy dining room by the scents of Italian pastas, steaks, and oven-baked pizzas. The glow of Vincenzo’s blue neon sign has hardly diminished since those early days, and the eatery continues to make guests feel at home with its plush mauve booths, hanging plants, and mirror portals to grandma's kitchen. Lunches of sub sandwiches and pizzas give way to dinners of tender chicken breast, hearty pastas, and house-specialty dishes such as manicotti stuffed with seasoned ricotta cheese and shaved Renaissance paintings. Fluffy breads sop up the flavorful marinara and garlic sauces left over on plates of breaded veal, baked eggplant, and lobster fettuccine.
Towering brick walls reach up to the exposed wooden rafters and modern, spherical chandeliers hang from 604 at West Village's high ceilings. Beneath this rustic, yet refined decor, plates of contemporary Italian dishes travel to tables, loaded with locally sourced produce, wild boar from Broken Arrow Ranch, and housemade pastas. Every day, chefs incorporate new ingredients from the Durham Farmers' Market into their risotto and craft the pasta primavera exclusively from fresh, seasonal vegetables. During warmer months, the restaurant hosts live jazz performances on its outdoor patio, allowing diners to enjoy the music and eat with silverware made from smelted saxophones.
Sharing the location, but offering a more casual dining environment, The Pizzeria serves oven-crisped pies alongside a similar selection of refined entrees with locally sourced ingredients. Although the chefs are equally comfortable with tossing thin-crust, new york style pizzas by hand and sculpting thicker, sicilian-style pizzas, their signature creation is the Grandma pan pizza with garlic- and basil-spiked tomato sauce. Although The Pizzeria's dining room shares the same brick walls as 604 at West Village, it creates a more lounge-like feel by lining them with neon beer signs and vintage posters advertising low-definition TVs.
For the past 20 years, the chefs at Sammios Italian have been perfecting a luscious meat-sauce recipe. The rich tomato gravy studded with tender, savory meat arrives at tables over platters of noodles—spaghetti, lasagna, and ziti, to be specific. In addition to pasta, the chefs marinate pork chops in their own seasoning blend and bread eggplant before smothering it with parmesan cheese. In addition to the dining room, meals are also served amid fresh air on the patio. There, servers continue to roll out dishes such as rib-eye steaks stamped with the USDA’s seal of approval—the outline of a cow waving a white flag.