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.
If you own or manage Panciuto, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.