15 Jun עופר איתן Says: Vic’s Italian Restaurant pizza, Italian cuisine prime for t…
This week, in addition to telling you about my delivery experiences from a local restaurant, I’d like to share another discovery. It’s a locally owned restaurant delivery service called Takeout Central.
The name will no doubt be familiar to many, including UNC alumni who can tell you that the business started out in 1996 as Tarheel Takeout. Over the years, their coverage expanded into the Triangle and eventually to other North Carolina cities, and the name was changed to Takeout Central.
I had heard of the service, but as a restaurant critic, I had never had reason to try it (or any other delivery service, for that matter) until the pandemic changed the rules.
Then I got a craving for pizza. As I explored the the options, I came across the website for Vic’s Italian Restaurant, where I discovered that the restaurant offers three delivery options: Door Dash, GrubHub and Takeout Central. Having read several articles about the sometimes exorbitant fees charged to restaurants by national delivery chains (including a recent New York Times article that cited an example of a 40 percent fee), and remembering that Takeout Central is locally owned, I decided to call Vic’s. I wanted to know if management recommended one service over another.
Sure enough, the man who answered the phone at the Lake Boone Trail location (who I later learned is bartender Daniel Stratton) was unequivocal in recommending Takeout Central. When I asked if what I had read about delivery fees was true, he said that Takeout Central charges about half the fee of the national services. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that, for restaurants, many of which are currently dancing on the razor edge of survival, every percent matters.
As a bonus, Takeout Central offers the option of ordering by phone or online. So I tried both — the first time by phone, and a couple weeks later online. Both times, I got text updates when the delivery person was at the restaurant picking up my order, and when the food was dropped off at my front door. And both times, the food was hot.
The New York-style pizzas were very good, too, as I expected them to be based on previous experience. Toppings were generous, and the crust well-browned and bubbly on every pie I sampled. On one occasion, I tasted a couple of 14-inch house specialties (the New Yorker and the White Pie). On another, an 18-inch behemoth with custom toppings (half artichoke and bacon, half pepperoni and mushroom) fed my household for three meals.
Vic’s also offers a full menu of pastas and entrees, some of which I have enjoyed in the past. That includes a fond pre-coronavirus memory of dining on shellfish-laden linguine al pescatore one balmy evening on the patio at the City Market location, savoring the dish against a backdrop of historic buildings and cobblestone streets. But I was skeptical of how well that dish might travel. Besides, I was craving pizza.
I ordered a starter called Portobello alla Baggio on one occasion, and was rewarded with a delightful medley of grilled portobello and eggplant, topped with a colorful patchwork of fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers and dollops of pesto. That same night, a wedge of ricotta cheesecake — crumbly but moist, and not too sweet — brought the meal to a satisfying conclusion.
Takeout Central charges a modest delivery fee to the customer, priced according to the distance from the restaurant to the delivery destination. At my address, the fee is $3.49 for all but a handful of restaurants, and ranges up to $6.49 for the most distant. Even so, I can’t think of a more painless — no, make that downright pleasant — way to help local restaurants.
Vic’s Italian Restaurant
Two Raleigh locations: City Market: 311 Blake St., 919-829-7090; and Lake Boone: 4035 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 109, 984-200-9292. vicsitalianrestaurant.com
Takeout Central: takeoutcentral.com
A thank you
On a personal note, I’d like to thank the many people who took the time to send me congratulatory emails in response to last week’s article celebrating my 25 years as a restaurant critic.
Along with the congratulations, I also got more than a few comments pointing out restaurants that I should have included in my reminiscences. Many of those restaurants would indeed have been worthy of a mention, but I especially regret having overlooked one in particular: Magnolia Grill.
In more ways than one, the now-closed Durham restaurant was a cornerstone in the development of the Triangle as a culinary region with a national reputation. Owner/chef Ben Barker and his late wife and partner, pastry chef Karen Barker, brought home two James Beard awards between them: the 2000 Best Chef in the Southeast for Ben, and the 2003 Outstanding Pastry Chef award for Karen.
By the time the restaurant closed in 2012 when the owners retired after a 26-year run, it left a legacy as a pioneer of local sourcing and a training ground for chefs who went on to open some of the area’s most noteworthy restaurants. So here’s one more toast to Magnolia Grill — and to all the restaurants that have made the last 25 years a restaurant critic’s dream come true.
I have invited readers to share their restaurant delivery and curbside pickup and experiences. That invitation still stands. Just email me at [email protected], with a description of your experience. I’ll publish as many as I can (edited as needed for brevity and clarity) in this space.
Great Harvest Bread Co.
Charlie M. shares a tip about a Cary bakery that is rising to the occasion:
“We have been getting take out from Great Harvest Bread Co. on Northwest Maynard Road, a little north of High House Road ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started. A daily email with their special breads, cookies and pastries is on their site. Order a sandwich and the website allows you to customize the sandwich in a very quick, user friendly way. The food is fresh and delicious. The website is accurate and easy to use. Payment online with a card.
“The service is exceptional. Order by phone or online, and you get a very specific time the order will be ready. Upon arrival, text or call a number posted on the outside, and an employee wearing a mask and gloves comes out with your order, places it in the rear of the vehicle, and off you go. Great food.
“As an additional benefit, you can pay to donate a loaf of bread to a local food pantry, and they also recently donated 200 pounds of fresh fruit and veggies to go with the bread.”
Sherry E. shares a tip about a local caterer (and I can confirm the topnotch quality from pre-pandemic events I have attended):
“I want to give a shout out to Catering Works, who has converted from catering events to keeping us well-fed while sheltering-in-place. Their dinners are incredible. Generous portions, delicious food, mouth-watering desserts, and touch-free pick-up or delivery.
“The menu changes every week, and they have vegetarian and gluten-free options. I’ve ordered every week for the past five weeks and every meal was outstanding.”