After 30+ years of living in areas where you can't turn a corner without being assaulted with the incredible smells of 100 different ethnic cuisines being cooked (think: the outdoor stalls in Singapore, the east village in NYC between Chinatown and Little Italy, etc.), I now find myself in the epicurean desert of coastal North Carolina. To give you the proper pespective: the only Thai food in town is from a buffet place called Mrs. Culpepper's Crab Cafe- which I believe used to be called Mrs. Culpepper's Thai & BBQ. Ethnic here is getting your fish blackened, not fried.
There are, however, occassional oasis in this proverbial desert, and Cafe Zito in Morehead City is one. The proprietors, Baptist & Jen, opened up Zito around the corner from my house about a year and a half ago (?), and I have been a loyal customer ever since. Why you ask? First: the food is excellent. Second: the food is actually interesting (i.e. the whole calamari stuffed with spinach, pine nuts, goat cheese and black risotto, parmesan fired olives, or butternut squash and acorn(?) soup.) They also have tapas nights Sunday-Tuesday with great hummus and Melitzanosalata. Third: the environment is extremely cute and they have a great porch for outside dining. Fourth: It's a family business and it shows (they were supposed to be closed for Thanksgiving- cooking in the restaurant for friends and family, but they welcomed anyone who came in to join them!) Greg and Nicole, the servers, while not direct family, might as well be. Fifth: the wine selection, while not huge, is eclectic and impossible to go wrong with. And lastly: the food is excellent.
The only fault I can find with Cafe Zito, which I regularly argue with Baptist about, is that they do not (and probably can not) always use local seafood- particularly the shrimp. As I have a "Friends don't let friend's eat imported shrimp" bumper sticker on my car, this sadly prevents me from tasting the srcumptious looking "Shrimp-Clamzito".
So- Go. Go now. Get in your car and start driving. You can be there by dinner.
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