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“Pancuito Redux” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Panciuto

110 S Churton St, Hillsborough, NC 27278-2538
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Ranked #1 of 51 Restaurants in Hillsborough
Dining options: Reservations
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations
Chapel Hill, NC
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
21 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
“Pancuito Redux”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 23, 2014

We did a review of Pancuito in 2012 about our experiences up until then. It's been awhile so we thought we'd provide an updated viewpoint.

Some of the things we said before are still true:

This is a small restaurant on Churton Street in Hillsborough, NC, a small town where you might not automatically assume a restaurant of this caliber. Fortunately for us, we live in the same county, though I know people who will drive from Raleigh or Greensboro to eat here.

The menu is limited in variety (and changes regularly) because the chef likes to source local ingredients - which also makes it heavily seasonal.

This restaurant is one of three or four locally that we use for special occasions; it's small and intimate and the service is...friendly. The bar and wine-list are adequate but the feature here is the food.

These things are all still true, perhaps more so. We went last night for a special romantic meal and enjoyed it thoroughly. At 6:15 on a Saturday night, the place was nearly full and was packed by 7 pm.

Let me tell what you're not going to get. You're not going to get anything that you'd see in a "red-sauce" italian restaurant. In fact, it's better not to think of this as anything but "italian-influenced southern fusion food using local NC ingredients". For us, the portions were huge; we brought food home from having two firsts, two mains, and two desserts. Nonetheless I know people who would complain about the portion sizes, so if you need Maggiano's portion sizes, this is not your place. The tables are fairly close together and there are no "private" booth like areas, think more like Parisian table placing - just slightly less dense. There is a large "family-style" table in the center of the restaurant, and the bar area is small. There are no substitutions or changes to the dishes. The service is not white-tablecloth formal. The bar is limited in variety. There are only 3-5 first courses, and 4-6 main courses and 2 desserts, and the menu may change over the course of the evening if something isn't currently available.

In fact, a couple seated an hour after us last night didn't have the striped bass entree, and did have a beef tenderloin entree in its place that wasn't available when we sat down. Things are in flux here; being the type who can roll with it will benefit your experience.

The chef, Aaron, remains one of the best in the region. In the past decade, only Bon Soirree and Fearrington House have had comparable dishes - this includes Lantern and Magnolia Grill in the reckoning.

The menu lists the farms they source; if you're a local you are likely to recognize many of these farms. Some of the wines on the wine list are provided by local distributor Jay Murrie - he specializes in small organic or bio-dynamic italian wines.

As usual our service was best described as "friendly". We brought a bottle of Krug champagne to celebrate our event and the glasses and wine bucket were provided along with their reasonable corking fee. Dinner was relaxed and unhurried, and the check was presented after we declined any additional after-dessert coffee or liquor.

All the dishes we enjoyed were very good; detailing what they were seems like a tease since it is unlikely you'll encounter the same dishes next week or next month.

  • Visited February 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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94 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
5 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 30, 2014

This is our favorite restaurant in town. A little pricey so it becomes our favorite "special occasion" place.

Visited November 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
6 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Great place”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 29, 2014

Food is inventive, fresh, local, and extremely well prepared. Great service too. The setting is quite nice and inviting as well. It might however be difficult for some picky eaters to find more than one dish they might enjoy as Panciuto serves mostly local and seasonal products. The night I went, about 70% of the dishes involved pork for example.

Visited December 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
North Carolina
11 reviews 11 reviews
4 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
“Beware the rules!”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed January 13, 2014

Okay, I'll say this up front: the food was pretty good. Amazing? No. But pretty darn good for this area. One of the four entrees was truly spectacular. The other three were fine, although not super-special.

My big frustration with this place is the fact that there are rules for dining at this establishment -- they're just not printed anywhere. You see, my husband and I decided to take my parents out for a nice dinner at Panciuto for their anniversary. They like to eat early, so we made a reservation for 6:00. I think there might have been one other couple sitting down when we arrived (and the place was not full when we left).

The menu is fairly limited, which is fine, but we decided that we wanted to try a variety of things, so the men each ordered an entree while the women ordered two (very pricey) hors d'oeuvres apiece. We placed our order, then perused the wine menu and selected a bottle of nice wine to accompany our meal. About 15 minutes after delivering our wine, our waitress returned to our table with a stack of menus - not our food. We assumed some item we'd ordered was out, but instead the waitress said, "I'm sorry, but you'll need to add a couple of entrees. We require that everyone at the table has an entree." Excuse me? I couldn't believe my ears. I mean, this is not New York City, for crying out loud. This is 6:00 p.m. in Hillsborough at an almost empty restaurant!

I asked to speak to the manager, who came over and abruptly said that it was simply the restaurant's policy, "because we want everyone to experience the full range of our offerings." I pointed out that I would have to cancel all of our appetizers - meaning I would have *fewer* things to taste - in order to get entrees, but he just said "So be it; that is our policy."

Well, needless to say, it soured the evening. Nowhere on the menu (or anywhere else, for that matter) is this rule printed for guests to see, and it was insane to tell us so long after we'd placed our order - and after our bottle of wine had been opened. We felt trapped. The reality is that we would have spent a lot more money (the combined hors d'oeuvres were notably more expensive than the entrees; we would have had a second bottle of wine, dessert, coffee, etc.) if this "rule" hadn't been foisted upon us in such an unseemly way.

So, Panciuto is not a restaurant I'll be visiting again. When a rule (such as a pre-determined tip fee or a shared-plate charge) is clearly stated, I accept it and make my dining choices accordingly. But the sneak attack was unprofessional, off-putting, and handled without any grace. I have better options for a nice dining experience.

  • Visited December 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Durham, North Carolina
5 reviews 5 reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Don't waste your time and money”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed January 12, 2014

I frequently go to the very best restaurants in the Triangle area. Given the significant absence of good Italian food here, I felt that we probably should try Panciuto given the hype that I've read on this restaurant. Unfortunately, this was a huge disappointment. I don't except a huge number of options on the menu but choosing between 4-5 entrees is a little slim (not to mention the huge number of appetizers (3) and desserts (2)). I purchased the Spaghetti nero with clams for $26. There was very little food on the plate. Although we got desert, I was still left hungry at the end of the meal. They even make you pay for the bread. I don't consider myself to be a cheapskate but I can recognize poor value when I see it. Although the quality of the food was pretty good, I take serious issue with previous reviews stating that is "some of the very best food that I have ever had". Give me a break. Given the location of the restaurant, the lack of choices, the poor value, the marginal service, and the mediocre quality of the food, I would highly recommend avoiding it.

  • Visited January 2014
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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