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I usually don’t have too much time to keep up with restaurant reviews since I’m usually writing my own but of course I did notice the N&O Restaurant of the Year for 2014, Gocciolina. Given their location, it would not be easy for me to visit the place and I’d run into them every now and then at local food events to sample their cuisine. But thankfully, I finally found an excuse to visit this cozy Italian ristorante and it was totally worth the drive!
Located in a quiet spot off of Guest Road, Gocciolina sits in a low-slung gray building with humble signage. And inside, it’s not much different. The small, bustling dining room has a hostess kiosk up front and maybe sits 50 or so people with a bar in back. I had made reservations about two weeks beforehand for a Wednesday so we were in good shape; the weekends here are really busy so call ahead. We’re seated at a small 4-top and presented with some long bread-sticks on our candle-lit table.
Our waiter stops by, an older gentleman in black, and takes our wine order. I go with a bottle of nebbiolo for a very reasonable $37. Most of the wine bottles at Gocciolina are under $45/bottle which makes for a reasonable dinner beverage option. A small chalkboard to the side shows off the daily specials which range from a seafood arancini, tortellini in brodo and trout crudo. The apps are in the $5 to $14 range. Entrees are mostly under $15 and fall under the category of plates rather than full meals which works fine for me! I order up the arancini, a baked gnocchi along with the steak, yum…
The arancini comes out first and it’s BEAUTIFUL looking appetizer. A largish, cone shaped morsel in sauce, I split it four ways so we all get a taste. It’s perfectly fried with a wonderful, seafood filling, which is quite different for me. Looking around the table I see a lovely pasta in broth dish along with other Italian goodies. We are off to a great start!
The main plates come to the table next and I dive into the gnocchi first. It’s a bit different than what I usually get, baked in a platter and served with splotches of fresh mozzarella on top. But it’s excellent with a bright red sauce and comforting pasta, a delicious choice. The steak ($11) is a spin off of bistecca tagliata (sliced steak) and it’s served perfectly here. A rare cut of what I think is flank with seared onions for maximum flavor surface area, lovely.
We finish off with a great chocolate torte covered in seared marshmallow along with two crunchy and freshly filled cannoli! I’m not even a cannoli fan but really enjoyed these treats for our meal’s happy ending. And it was just that, a great meal from start to finish. I really enjoyed Gocciolina, not just because the food was excellent but because it feels real. No attempt to put on hipster airs, no focus on beautiful people manning the front of the house, just great food in comfortable surroundings at a reasonable price. The Triangle has been evolving in terms of its food scene and Gocciolina feels like a throw-back to what I truly enjoy, an eatery that focuses on great food and service without taking itself too serious or trying to be too trendy. And it nails it if that’s what you’re looking for in your dining experience. So enjoy this Italian gem in N. Durham, I hope to be back soon and work through more of your menu…
3314 Guess Road
Durham, NC 27705