If you’re a fan of shows at the DPAC, it’s always interesting trying to find good dining options. And while there are plenty of nearby restaurants, when you have thousands of patrons in the area looking to do the same thing, it can still be a challenge. But if you’re willing to walk a bit, I’ve got a great new option for you, the newly opened Motto! Brought to you by the Urban Food group and a refresh of what used to be Lucia Restaurant, Motto is a beautiful new space with a couple of surprises waiting for you!
Located in what used to be the space for Pop’s, from the outside you wouldn’t really notice Motto. Large brick building with minimal signage, its 2nd floor spot keeps it out of pedestrian eye-view. Since it sits between downtown Durham’s core and Brightleaf Square, this area doesn’t get as much attention as it should but it’s just a slightly longer walk to DPAC, just past the Amtrak station. Go up the stairs and you’ll be greeted by a hostess station. Long bar in front of you to the left and two dining rooms to the right, the space feels a bit luxurious but with some rustic touches including an interesting, wood pallet wall on one side. But given the time constraints for my show, we grab a couple of seats at the bar.
The menu at Motto has been swizzled a bit from the old Lucia menu. Rather than just doing Italian, they have worked in a bit of Southerness to it in homage to their NC roots. And with only about 20+ items on the menu, it’s more of a small plates type situation. We order up some cracklins, mussels and I’m doing a corn agnolotti which caught my eye. The cracklins show up and are awesome: crisp, not greasy and perfectly fried. Dusted with some spices, they make for a great starter.
Next up are the mussels, loving presented in a large ceramic bowl with grilled crust slices of bread stacked atop. A squeeze of lemon and we dig in. They’re cooked up with tomatillo and chorizo which is decent. There’s a bit of spice on the back end but pretty mildly flavored overall, liked them but it wasn’t quite love.
While the smaller hot plates are in the $11 to $13 range, Motto’s large plates go for $20 to $30 which is about right for the ambiance here. My aglonotti is a generous plate of stuffed pasta: ricotta, corn puree and dusted with some parmesan and sauteed mushrooms. L-O-V-E this plate, it bursts with the sweet corn flavor and earthy mushrooms. It’s served with brown butter sauce which plays nicely with the whole meal. My tablemate’s braised pork cheek is beautifully plated with some slivered radish and cracklin but I hold back on taking a taste.
All I can say is that nice job Motto! You’ve only been open a couple of weeks but it looks like an impressive start for you. From the great decor, excellent prepared Italian eats to the on-point pricing, DPAC and Durhamites have another great dining option in the hood. My motto for Motto would be: Delicious Italian-Southern eats near DPAC! So seek them out, Motto is more than just some words, it’s some great food…
605 W Main St,
Durham, NC 27701