Following the advice of several fellow Chowhounders, I headed to Vespa last weekend with my family. The meal was uneven but pleasant enough -- comparable to 411 West just across the street, and decidedly superior to the execrable Valentino's (purveyor of plasticene cheese) just up the street.
The appetizers (beef carpaccio and prosciutto artfully wrapped in warm mozzarella) were excellent, as was my cheese and mushroom tortellini and all three of our desserts: tiramisu (made with mascarpone, as it should be), cannoli, and torta della nona (a kind of almond cheese tart).
My wife's lamb special was neither here nor there -- a big piece of meat in a undistinguished brown gravy served with undistinguished boiled vegetables. I couldn't perceive how the dish was in any way Italian, or why anyone would consider it interesting. The strangest black mark was the bread, which tasted like stale Pepperidge Farm sandwich loaf. When we asked about it, more out of curiosity than pique, the waitress readily admitted that it was lousy. I give her points for candor.
Dinner for four was slightly stiff at $130, including tip. One could eat more economically by avoiding the specials.
Following another Chowhound tip, I made two visits to Alfredo's (formerly Mio's) in the University Square Mall. In the first instance I stopped in for a slice. It was soaked through with grease, so I tore off the crust and threw away the remaining soggy mass. Holding to the cardinal belief that a slice is no measure of a pizza joint, I stopped in again for a full cheese pie and found it satisfactory -- probably the best New York style pizza I've tasted in North Carolina. The cheese and sauce are both New York grade, though the crust does have a slight touch of provincial cardboardiness. The crust is thin enough, however, that the flaw isn't fatal. The major problem with Alfredo's is the shabbiness and desolation of the mall itself. The mall's joyless atmosphere seems to find its way into Alfredo's like a subtle draft. I am hoping that the new Southern Season will do something to remedy the situation.
One note: the Italian fellows who run the place struck me as a little obnoxious. They seem to have a kind of loud-mouthed schtick going. I suppose this is a matter of taste.