After reading some good things about Panciuto (110 South Churton St.) on Chowhound and a couple of other places, I decided it was time to make the short trip out to old town Hillsborough to give it a shot. We normally don’t write about places outside of Durham, but Hillsborough is awesome so it is OK.
I instantly fell in love with the place, for all the same reasons I fell in love with the idea of Piedmont and continue to give it ample opportunities to redeem itself after several bad dining experiences. Like Piedmont, Panciuto is quaint, dimly lit, and filled with exposed brick. They use almost all local produce, and the menu is pretty innovative (for Italian, at least).
When we first arrived they were extremely busy and our table wasn’t ready yet. When we were eventually seated, the hostess (who owns the place with her husband — the chef), brought us a free glass of champagne to apologize. Good.
We had several appetizers, which were all very good. For my main course I ordered the squid ink spaghetti with crumbled sausage, which was good but not exceptional. For the price, I left feeling my money would have been better spent at Magnolia Grill or Bonne Soiree. However, Panciuto has several things going for it — the atmosphere is way better than Magnolia, this area seriously lacks a high-end Italian place, and the wine list was extremely reasonably priced.
Unfortunately, we had an additional problem with our waitress. She seemed to be having some sort of personal crisis, and we experienced the most inattentive service I can remember in the past several years. However, this can happen to anyone, so as long as it was an isolated incident I won’t hold it against them. I would be curious to hear about anyone else’s experience.
I will probably return. If you are looking for something new and feel like dropping some coin on a dinner in a really nice (romantic, even) atmosphere, give Panciuto a shot. However, if for some reason I needed to ensure the meal would be very good to excellent, I would stick with the local favorites.