Last night I tried Daniel's Pizza and Pasta Cafe in Apex. I want to issue an all-points alert. I found it in all respects mediocre, whatever the recommendations of some of my fellow chowhounders.
Keeping it simple to gauge fundamentals, we had antipasti salad, spaghetti and sausage, and a cheese pie. The sausage had nothing on the Johnsonville available in the supermarket; the spaghetti was cheap and overcooked; and the pie was cardboardy and utterly without character or flavor.
I'm constantly amazed that restaurants purporting to specialize in pasta serve such cheap stuff. Merely opting for De Cecco or something comparable, and then cooking it properly, would elevate the entire cuisine substantially.
I would be willing to accept this fare at the kind of fast-food "Italian" restaurants one finds in the strip malls, but Daniel's, as far as I can tell, purports to be something more. Top-priced entrees run about $20.
Sadly, the place was packed at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday night, suggesting that market dynamics do not hold out much incentive for improvement.
Thus far, the best red-sauce Italian fare I've had in Chapel Hill is Sal's, though it too has a major pasta problem.