Pulcinella’s - Dinner Under $20 in Durham

Posted Updated

Moreton Neal (Food Critic)
Shhhh-don’t tell anybody. I want this place all to myself.

Thanks to my friend, cookbook writer Jean Anderson, I’ve just rediscovered a wonderful little restaurant in Woodcroft Creek Shopping Center. “It’s just like a neighborhood Italian place in New York,” enthused Jean. “I bring out-of-town visitors here. It’s always been very good...and a bargain.”

Situated near a Food Lion strip mall, Pulcinella’s doesn’t look like much from the outside, and, to be honest, the inside won’t be winning any design awards either. But it’s cozy, colorful, and after all, the proof is in the pasta. The southern Italian menu offers an assortment of familiar items (Fettuccine Alfredo, Baked Ziti, and Lasagna), and less familiar specialties such as Penne alla Matriciana and Spaghetti alla Bella Donna, all priced at $9.99.

Jean’s recommendation, Eggplant Rollatini, “slices of eggplant lightly breaded and fried, layered with ham, ricotta and provolone, rolled and baked in fresh tomato sauce” was a delight-- tender, perfectly seasoned, and absolutely delicious.

A generous glass of quite decent Chianti added $3.50 to the bill; a nice crispy cannoli stuffed with chocolate-flecked ricotta another $2.99.

My companion was equally enthusiastic about his choices: an outstanding homemade minestrone and Chicken Marsala, the portion large enough for two.

Though owner Salvatore Pucinelli is a Neapolitan and has overseen the family’s restaurant for twelve years, a new chef from Milan adds a northern touch to the menu with intriguing specials. Our server swore that Risotto Milanese appears now and then. She promised to let me know the next time, but when I go back, I don’t want to stand in line. So please, folks, stay away from Pulcinella’s!

Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.