No culinary conquest of Elizabeth City would be complete without indulging in at least one of the city’s waterfront dining locations.
This has become particularly evident to me – a recent Elizabeth City adoptee – on a mid-spring evening at Paradiso Roma Ristorante, where all early-day suggestions of summer’s incoming heatwave have dissolved into a lovely breeze.
Beyond the deck, boats sway on the other end of the Pasquotank River, a seagull flies overhead, and a turtle bobs surreptitiously on the water’s surface. A server delivers fried ravioli to a table beside me. They rest there like a line of fallen dominoes, over a bed of red sauce.
I preempt salivation by taking a deep draw from my peach daiquiri.
Although Paradiso – across the bridge in Camden County, but still technically a part of Elizabeth City – opened less than a year ago, its food and atmosphere is a clear reassertion of older traditions. Its chef, Tiffany, draws inspiration from a childhood spent cooking alongside her grandfather. And with options like fresh-made pasta and Mama’s Meatballs on the menu, it’s hard not to see yourself as the beneficiary of a greater lineage.
My dessert-first peach daiquiri precedes a two-pronged offensive made up of eggplant parmesan and a customized pizza whose size I underestimate. And if that’s not enough, I’m also treated to a house salad with balsamic-tinged Italian dressing and a couple of oven-hot bread sticks.
The eggplant parmesan is particularly noteworthy, with a fantastic balance of crisp and tender, a chunky tomato sauce that teases even the most obstinate of nostrils, and thick made-in-house fettuccini. This is how treat-yourself food ought to taste: bold and unapologetic.
And in the same spirit, might I recommend that you don’t forget to try a dessert? Because, although I’ve tasted plenty of canoli in Florence and Rome, I’m proud to say that the best of them all was made right here in Elizabeth City.
If you’re concerned about how much food I’ve ordered, don’t worry – at Paradiso it’s okay to ask for a doggie bag. Although, let’s be real, my feast calls for more of a pony bag. I take it slowly from my table, past an inviting porch swing, through the inside dining area and beyond a wall-decoration shaped like a palm tree and fashioned out of shells, back to my car, and over the bridge. The sun has set, but there’s still a soft, persistent glow.
For more information on Elizabeth City restaurants, take a look at our Dining section.
Special thanks to Instagram user @deliciouselizabethcity for a gorgeous featured image! All other photo credits: Nelson Disla
Nelson Disla is a fiction writer and the owner of Pasquotank Pen, a content studio that consults with businesses to deliver high-quality marketing material. He also blogs for non-profits and his own pleasure. You can find more information, and get in touch with him, at www.dislawritescopy.com.