Spork This!: Cafe Caturra in Cameron Village

June, 04, 2010, by Paul

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Stepping out of our cars, my friends and I were greeted first with the toasty aroma of a wood fire followed by the yeasty scent of fresh bread. Cafe Caturra, only two weeks old, in Cameron Village is warm and inviting both from the outside and in. Large black umbrellas and wicker chairs line the exterior where diners munch thru pizzas and salads on the cobblestone sidewalks. The interior, laced with rich reds and stone tones, feels very lounge-ish with large velvet chairs and golden chandeliers.

Our first impression was one of mere confusion: this place is obviously very classy but are those checkout counters? Should we sit down or order like we’re at McDonalds? This confusion would last the rest of the evening, although the food came pretty close to helping us forget. A very friendly server asked us first if we would like something to drink. Cafe Caturra’s wine list is based on unusual, boutique wines served draught style such as a Vinho Verde from Portugal, Agiorgitiko from Greece, or my personal choice of a Primitivo from Puglia.

We received our beverages almost immediately and then were instructed to take a seat. We browsed the menu, an interesting collection of small to medium sized plates including crostini, sandwiches, personal pizzas, and wine fare. The so called Neo-Pizza’s are meant to resemble the thin, wood-fire charred pizzas of Napoli, the home of pizza as it were. Having been to Napoli and sampled a collection of the best pizzeria’s in the city I can attest to their authenticity: pretty close. Cafe Caturra uses a pizza dough shipped in from California, who in turn, uses water from New York to make their dough. Anyone who’s enjoyed Semolina Bread from New York can understand the need for such practices, and it’s obvious Cafe Caturra did its research. Happy as I was to hear of this imported dough, it seems far more troublesome than making the dough themselves, but that’s neither here nor there.

Having decided on our dinner options, our group sat confused once again. Should we get up and order or will someone come to the table? Another friendly server instructed us to leave the table and order at the counter. We got up, now waiting in line with other diners and recited our orders to a few new servers working the registers. We also had to tell them what our drink orders were (more confusion since we thought they had been rung up when we ordered them 10 minutes prior). We sat back down, mumbling our concerns to one another, and sipped our stellar wines for what felt like 5 minutes before the appetizers arrived. We may be puzzled, but damn it if that food didn’t come flying out of the kitchen. We shared a variety of crostini topped with tender beef and gorganzola, pimentos and mozzarella, and sundried tomatoes and goat cheese as well as a sampling of sliders each topped with a different cheese. Our favorite, however, was the large bowl of olives and almonds, a delightful contrast of flavors and textures I’d never experienced before.

As we passed dish after dish around the table, glasses filled constantly by the now-active table service, the pizzas and other mains began to arrive. Each pizza, roughly 10” wide, was served atop a wooden cutting board which made things casual and easy to sharde. The dough, although delicious, was thick like flat bread rather than light and crunchy like a Neopolitan pie. I chose the Margherita, the truly original pizza, with buffalo mozzarella, roma and golden tomatoes, basil and olive oil. The whole thing tasted very uncooked, from the cold diced tomatoes to the stingey layering of buffalo mozzarella (my favorite cheese on the planet). It was incredibly tasty, chewy dough and fruity tomatoes, but it could have been surreal with a little more attention to detail. My friends enjoyed wraps, soups, and other pizza choices with similar enthusiasm, except the Tarragon Tuna wrap which was a hit.

Overall the food was more than satisfying: interesting flavor combinations, beautifully executed plating, reasonable pricing, and impeccable table service (when we had it). That being said, the manner in which we ordered and our frustration on table etiquette has me questioning the thought process involved in Cafe Caturra’s organization? Counter-side ordering seems very fitting for the quick turnaround of the lunch crowd, but if I’m going to spend $20-30 on boutique wine, trendy appetizers, and heirloom pizzas I sure as hell expect a server to take my order as I sip my vino at the table. I especially don’t want to question whether it’s polite or not to ask the server for another drink or leave the table and order it myself. Where are we, Chipotle?

My initial review for this fun, cozy pizzeria serving better pizza than most in the comfort of Cameron Village was 3.5 stars. BUT, the drive-thru-esque ordering and unusual sequence of events (drinks-sit down-get up-sit down-tip?) left an unappealing taste in all of our mouths. Therefore, I feel it appropriate to give Cafe Caturra 3 stars, a more than satisfactory score considering they’ve only been open a couple weeks. I hope the terrific staff of Cafe Caturra understands my, and many other customers, concerns and updates the style of service accordingly.

What do you think of Cafe Caturra?

Cafe Caturra
Cameron Village
432 Woodburn Road
Raleigh, NC 27605
(919) 835-WINE

Hours of operation:
  Mon., Tue., Wed., Thu. - 11 to 10
  Fri. & Sat. - 11 to 11
  Sun. - 11 to 9








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  • Big Al
    06/04 12:17 PM

    Quote…
    “.... Cafe Caturra uses a pizza dough shipped in from California, who in turn, uses water from New York to make their dough. Anyone who’s enjoyed Semolina Bread from New York can understand the need for such practices, and it’s obvious Cafe Caturra did its research. ...’”

    Really, this is a good thing? In what universe, exactly? Oh, I know - BP
    s universe. The wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico thanks you for all that unnecessary shipping.

  • Big Al
    06/04 12:21 PM

    it would be one thing if we were shipping life saving equipment, but pizza? Really, Pizza? Water form MY shipping to Cali, who in turns ships dough to Raleigh? perfect time for O..M..G

  • Jenna
    06/04 12:49 PM

    This sounds a lot like the system at many Pubs in England—order at the bar, tell them your table number, wait for food. Result for hapless American exchange students: confusion.

  • roi
    06/04 08:06 PM

    Water from NY. ?? To me this doesn’t make sense.  But may be the prepared dough from California could be a reasonable thing.

  • Scott
    06/05 12:40 AM

    If you’ve never tasted pizza from NY, than its perfectly reasonable not understand why exactly the water is shipped from NY for the dough. But if you have, than you already know that no pizza compares to NY pizza, and its the NY water that makes the best NY pizza dough. The fact that the owners of the establishment understand that and make the effort and lay out the costs to actually ensure the dough is made to the top standards should be respected at the very least.

  • Andrea F. Gee
    06/05 10:53 AM

    I have visited the Cafe Caturra three times since opening.  The food is amazing and the service is top notched.  I believe the blog above is very confusing.  One minute he says good things and the next he is rattling on about water.  Who really cares about where they get the water?  As long as the food taste great and you are treated like their #1 Customer then the goal has been met.  Please don’t take the comments from the writer or the comments from people who have never even visited the place to heart.  Everyone should give this place a try and decide for yourselves if you love it just as much as I and many others do!!!!!

  • Richard Slater
    06/06 01:30 PM

    Hey Andrea, do you work for, or own,  the restaurant?
    I have been there. The food is very good, but I want to be waited on, not order at the counter. So, I will more than likely not go back. Too many good restaurants in Raleigh…

  • Dan from Detroit
    06/06 03:54 PM

    Geez all you locavores - you’re posting to a blog with a computer shipped all the way from China.  If it’s delicious I don’t care where it’s from, I just eat it.  Do I prefer local grown, sure but it’s hard to get everything I love within a 50mi radius.

  • gd
    06/06 05:02 PM

    NY pizza is the best?  I keep hearing this rumor, but I haven’t ever found it to be true.  I prefer chicago style..

    anyway - haven’t tried this place yet.  I need to.  It sounds good…

  • hbomb
    06/06 09:57 PM

    i love pizza, and i’ve had varieties from all over the world, but shipping water from ny (which is nothing special) to ca to make a dough that you then ship to nc is just fucking stupid. i guarantee you there is a spice or some sort of bubble to the water that we can do right here in nc. stop being so damned pretentious. thanks to this review i will probably not visit this establishment, no matter how mouth watering their pizza may be. and yes, i’m writing on my mac laptop. and dan, it’s not as hard as you think. you need to dig a lot deeper.

  • CP
    06/07 09:34 AM

    ate there yesterday for a late lunch, wine was great, pizza,, a little well done for my taste, but was nice, I don’t like having to order my drink and my food from two different counters and going to sit back down, but the waitress, gladly brought me another glass when she stopped by our table, so that was cool.

  • Big Al
    06/07 12:24 PM

    Dan from Detroit06/06 01:54 PM sezs
    “Geez all you locavores - you’re posting to a blog with a computer shipped all the way from China.  If it’s delicious I don’t care where it’s from, I just eat it.  Do I prefer local grown, sure but it’s hard to get everything I love within a 50mi radius. “

    Yes Dan, Water is soooooo hard to find locally, best to have it shipped in,from NY, via California.

  • Slightly smaller Al
    06/07 04:53 PM

    If you run a restaurant that sells pizza, and you’re not one of the fast food ones, you need to make your own dough in-store, and not have it shipped in from somewhere else. It ain’t that hard. If you can’t even put that much effort into it, then consider not selling pizza.

  • Lisa Jeffries
    06/08 01:17 AM

    “Counter-side ordering seems very fitting for the quick turnaround of the lunch crowd, but if I’m going to spend $20-30 on boutique wine, trendy appetizers, and heirloom pizzas I sure as hell expect a server to take my order as I sip my vino at the table. I especially don’t want to question whether it’s polite or not to ask the server for another drink or leave the table and order it myself. Where are we, Chipotle?”

    haha, I love this analysis.

    I haven’t tried the food yet, but I LOVE the small 3 oz pours of wine. It is a great size that allows you to sample their wide selection without the waste and cost of a double sized portion… you know, just in case it doesn’t suit your tastes.

  • Lindsey
    06/09 12:07 PM

    This place is delicious! I had mini burgers, it come with 3 different kinds and they were all so good I couldn’t decide which one I like best. Yes, the ordering is a bit confusing but the food is fantastic… I will be going back for sure!!

  • Jill
    06/11 02:07 PM

    Sounds like a great place - can’t wait to try it!

  • Steve Deason
    01/17 05:41 PM

    Although I enjoy the food and drink, I have to share complete disappointment in the ethics of senior management of Cafe Caturra.  For over a year I have been complaining about the fact that they have a $1.85 tea on the menu they will not serve you.  In fact as recently as this past Monday when my wife ordered it she was charged $2.10 and given another size.  No mention that she was being “switched”.  I have been in contact with one of the unit managers who informs me that they are not going to do anything about this because of the costs of changing their menus.  I was also insulted by being told that if I “need” to buy the $1.85 size he will make arrangements at HIS location.  This is deceptive and probably illegal.  Simple solutions are available.  One honor your menu.  Two - cover over this size offering on the menu.  Three - sell it at the $1.85 price and tell customers that it does not include refills.  I offer the third because if anyone is cheap in this conversation it’s the management.  I do not know if this practice is the same in NC as it is in Richmond. Please let me know.

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