3314 Guess Road, Durham
The menu at Gocciolina, the Italian restaurant tucked in a random shopping center on Guess Road, is more sensible than the rhapsodic visions it summons: imaginary Italian relatives feeding you little spoonfuls of spicy chickpeas and tossing bites of crispy eggplant into your mouth, chased with a swig of Barolo, while a scratchy record plays Luigi Tenco. In an unselfconsciously boring location, a respite from the aggressive hipness of downtown, the restaurant seems to have addressed the small-plate trend by making all of its plates kind of small, even the entrées. The best deals are the antipasti, with prices that decrease the more you buy. If you like the sensory delirium of lots of tastes and textures, and the social atmosphere fostered by sharing food, Gocciolina is a great place to do it while appeasing guests who would prefer a whole lamb chop to themselves. Or, you can meet in the middle with a reasonable portion of pasta and a bunch of bites that feel nourishing and decadent at once.