Tuesday, March 27th - it was a seemingly typical day and evening. Robbie came over after work and it was my turn to pick our dinner spot. At first, I thought about seafood and a trip to Shucker's in Wake Forest - a great spot to which I was recently introduced. Shucker's is up by my school, which is about a half hour haul from my place. My stomach and I craved a good, solid meal. I thought it was worth it and it probably was. On our way there, I became sidetracked, however. I drive this stretch everyday and as we were driving along interstate 540 east, I saw a sign advertising dining spots off of the Falls of the Neuse exit. Lafayette Village - the sign stood out to me - as it has many a times driving past. I remember having a quick thought this time... you always have a fond memory of wandering around this quaint village that is new to North Raleigh. you should stop again sometime - you should go back - you should take someone there - ah ha! you can! - Robbie - call and ask their price range. I knew that it was going to be a little more expensive than what I had wanted to spend on dinner but, it is some place new, some place exciting and with a few ground rules - someplace we could make work - if we didn't enjoy a drink and shared a salad - this could fit into my budget. We are in. :)
A good friend of mine had introduced me to Lafayette Village this past summer. It had recently opened and we enjoyed a lunch time meal at Paparazzi before meandering through the various shops nearby. Even though it is a new development in the area, the architecture creates a cozy, older village that transports me to what I picture a small Italian village to look like. From my first trip there, I remember a gelateria, a bakery, a cozy wine shop, a crepe cafe, a restaurant called the Village Grill, a spice shop, some boutiques and an Italian grocery market. I was so excited to take Robbie. This trip was a bit more focused than my lazy summer day but, we both certainly enjoyed the ambiance on our way from the parking lot and into the restaurant and back. This time, we parked near a Chocolate shop where they appeared to possibly be having a class on chocolate work. We enjoyed the music playing throughout the village as we strolled past the Italian Market and up to the menu posted by the door of Paparazzi. We surveyed the menu and the prices, yes, with a few ground rules we could do a spontaneous Tuesday night dinner here. We probably can't do it very often but, we could do it tonight. After this meal, I'm sure we'll be back - just maybe for lunch or a special occasion dinner though. For two teachers at the bottom rung of the pay scale, we can't make this a habit but, a nice splurge here and there - this fits the bill.
We opened the door and walked up to the hostess. We already felt the warmth and coziness that the atmosphere provides. The lighting was warm and there was an alluring aroma of brick over pizza in the air. Robbie and I both noticed that the moment we walked in. It was a perfect and inviting smell to both of us.
We were seated at a beautiful wooden table - it may be oak. The restaurant had a good crowd for a Tuesday night. Our server came by and delivered our waters and began his great evening with us. Our server was one of the better servers that we have had dining out in awhile. He seemed relaxed and was very willing to spend time answering our questions and helping us out. He did a great job. Robbie and I went into the restaurant with an idea of what we wanted to order. He helped us narrow our path and make our final decision - a small salad brilliantly titled "Lattuga di Boston," would be split between the two of us. It probably isn't enough to share between two if you're really hungry but, I had eaten a salad at lunch earlier in the day and just wanted a few bites. It was tasty. I believe that it was Boston lettuce, goat cheese, tediously cut orange slices and a few thinly sliced red onion accompanied an unknown vinaigrette like dressing. We both enjoyed this refreshing salad. Our server also brought out fresh, ciabatta like bread with herbed butter. The bread slices were the perfect size for bruschetta and were very satisfying.
For our entrees, we both ordered something different. Robbie stuck to a more traditional dish - the Tagliatelle Bolognese. I opted for the Orecchiette al Burro D'Arancia. From my short stint as a server at the Olive Garden, I had learned that Orecchiette is a pasta shaped like a little ear (I believe that it means "little ear" in Italian). I also described it as a small mushroom top. D'Arancia reminded me of Aranciata - the name of an orange flavored soda that I have found at various cafes before. I believe that it is Italian too and in origin means orange.
Yes, my pasta was described as having a sauce that had an orange butter base. I did get a citrus like undertone while I ate it. It started off more like a fresh lemon flavor but, as you eat more, it does turn over to orange. It was a nice, light pasta that went well with the perfectly cooked shrimp that I added to the dish. The dish also had very small slices of fresh asparagus - the knife work on these and the oranges in the salad showed hard work and attention to detail in the kitchen. I thought about trying to make this dish at home - for those of you that really know me - I'm not much of a cook, but, I did have this thought. Both dishes had some serious prep time and knife work.
Robbie seemed to enjoy his Tagliatelle too. I didn't know exactly what Tagliatelle was but, our server gladly explained. It is a flatter noodle that is similar to fettuccine. It wasn't as thick or wide. Both pastas tasted homemade - even though neither of them were one of two fresh made pastas advertised on the menu. We both enjoyed both dishes and had enough to take home for the next day too.
I feel like I could write a lot more about the ambiance and atmosphere and about my future ideas of different meals there with pizza, wine, dessert and more. You will need to check these out for yourself. Robbie and I will need to return for some more menu experimentation too - we may just choose lunch next time so we can enjoy a beverage and possibly a desert within our budget too. If you do decide to check it out and you're in the mood for a pasta dish - I do recommend going outside the box of a traditional red sauce - be that their house red sauces - the San Marzano or the Bolognese - and try one of the other dishes like the Orecchiette. I know that I ordered the San Marzano during my first trip and my friend tried something different. Although I enjoyed my meal, I envied her order. This motivated me this trip too. I did like the Bolognese but, I was glad to have my orange butter/asparagus dish for my full meal instead. You will have to be your own judge, however. Also, take note, they have a seasonal menu - so offerings may vary from trip to trip too.
I definitely recommend a trip to Paparazzi and to Lafayette Village, in general. I think it is worth a trip and the stroll. :)