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Restaurants & Bars 2

Chapel Hill: Panzanella

David A. | Sep 29, 200210:23 AM

I've now been to Panzanella twice with my extended family and tasted a good portion of the menu. I have to give a qualified thumbs down.

The pizzas are good -- certainly the best thing on offer -- but even here one can go wrong. The sausage and red pepper pizza is gloppy, for example, and the sausage itself is not terribly appetizing. I rather like the artichoke and fontina pizza, and the margherita is solid. The crispy, smoky crust is easily the best feature of Panzanella's pizzas.

The major problem has to do with the rest of the menu. We had satisfactory fried calamari and quite good gnochi, but lousy lamb lasagne, lousy cheese and walnut ravioli, and absolutely terrible lemon linguini with seafood. The latter featured a tasteless broth that looked like dishwater and some of the worst house-made pasta I've ever tried. (I had the same linguini and seafood dish at 411 West recently: it was vastly better). In all cases the seasoning seems to be off. The tiramisu is also lamentable for the same reason it's lamentable most everywhere: whipped cream used in place of the more expensive mascarpone, lady fingers used in place of Savoiardi biscuits.

Panzanella is a good bakery, but it lacks the expertise to double as a thoroughly satisfactory restaurant. It's possible to have a good meal -- fried calamari followed by an artichoke and fontina pizza works -- but just as likely to have a bad meal. Choose with caution.

I didn't try much at 411 West, but generally liked what I had. A good margherita; terrific seafood linguine; so-so chocolate gelato.

David A.

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