During one of my latest carb-binging episodes, my inner soul compelled me to get PASTA! My first thought was, “Where’s an Olive Garden?” Did I think of it because of the “authentic Italian” recipes as purported by a commercial break during the latest episode of The Real House Wives of New York? Was it the promise of feeling loved by the “When you’re here, you’re family” quote at the end of a pasta-gasm laden 30 second spot? No, it was the endless pasta bowl. I wanted to eat endlessly, I wanted the pasta to never end; my craving was a bottomless pit of gluten. I wanted to be free of “gluten free”.
I quickly slapped myself in the face and decided to try for quality over quantity. I remembered hearing good things about Gocciolina in North Durham so I decided to give it a try. I decided to take my wife out for dinner but, let’s face it, if she was not available, I would have just gone by myself. Table for one, please.
We got there at around 7:00pm and the parking lot was full. The restaurant did not look like much from the outside but it’s what is on the inside that counts, right? We entered and were promptly greeted by a hostess and got a table quickly. The place has a large room on one side where you can have pre-dinner cocktails while you wait for your food. Get me drunk before eating? Good strategy sir, good indeed. The main dining room was small and intimate; there were lighted candles at each table, adding to the romance.
The wait staff at Gocciolina was some of the best I have experienced in Durham. The waiter came over and gave the specials list that had Italian phrases I do not remember (something about lamb maybe?). I ended up ordering off the main menu. I had the Spaghetti Carbonara (mainly because it has the word ‘carb’ in the name). It had pork belly, egg yolk, mushrooms and cheese. The pasta was made fresh and not store bought or frozen; you cannot replicate the texture of fresh pasta. The portion was just enough for a human person, but I could have eaten more if only out of gluten-y…get it? The flavors were very balanced and you could taste each one in the dish, which was nice. My wife had the ravioli, which came with a pork Bolognese sauce. It was very tasty and, again, you taste the freshness of the pasta. I personally liked my dish better but I am not a ravioli guy.
There were also several tapas options if you wanted to try several items on a budget; we ordered the meatballs because every Italian joint needs a good meatball. As with the rest of the meal, the meatballs were delicious. The waiter let us know it takes 48 hours to make them; it only took me two minutes to eat them. The next item off the tapas menu was the liver pâté on bread. I love liver pâté because I am cool like that. It was good and not too salty. Finally, we had a desert cannoli, not filled with cool whip or vanilla cream like you’re used to getting at Kroger, but filled with house-made mascarpone cheese. It was heavenly and enough for two people to share.
I would not bring my kids here, because of the intimate space and how loud my kids are, but neither would I want to –the last thing I want is my son throwing pasta on my date night shirt. All in all, Gocciolina is a great date spot for dinner.