Garibaldi Trattoria

Creamy seafood pasta with shrimp, scallops and salmon.

Garibaldi Trattoria isn’t just a restaurant; it’s Fuquay-Varina’s go-to spot for a top-notch dining experience. In business for five years, the eatery is known for its quality French-inspired Italian cuisine, romantic ambiance and impeccable service.

Parisian Italian Cuisine:

Garibaldi’s signature fusion of French cooking techniques with fine Italian fare.

Proprietor and veteran restauranteur Arken Elhicheri, who was raised by French and Italian parents, opened Garibaldi with the intention of serving what he calls Parisian Italian cuisine. The fusion works splendidly.

“I grew up in Paris in a family that worked in restaurants, and I learned the importance of doing things the right way,” says Elhicheri, who runs the restaurant along with his wife, Leila Skander.

Part of doing things right involves embracing time-tested methods like making stocks, baking ciabatta bread from scratch and using the freshest ingredients possible for sauces, pasta, pizza and more.

Tantalizing lambchops pair nicely with a glass of red wine.

“Nowadays, many restaurants cut corners to save time and money, but we don’t do that,” Elhicheri asserts. “All our food is considered fine dining, because whether you get pizza or a filet (mignon), we use the finest ingredients we can find.”

Elhicheri previously owned a small French bistro in Raleigh. He came to Fuquay after finding a larger building with a sizeable kitchen and an affordable lease.

Shortly after opening Garibaldi, Elhicheri hired talented chef Christino “Celso” Saldivar, who was born in Mexico but grew up in New York City.

“Celso spent a lot of time working in French restaurants,” he says, “so he knows proper cooking techniques.”

Indeed, the chef’s abilities are evidenced by the satisfying dishes he churns out.

When it comes to appetizers, try the Bruschetta Basilica with vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil on garlic crostini. Or consider the Polpette alla Napoletana, which comprises authentic Italian meatball, ricotta, San Marzano tomato ragu and Pecorino Romano.

Main course temptations abound, including Cappelini Primavera (angel hair pasta and summer vegetables crowned with choice of garlic white wine or tomato basil sauce); creamy seafood alfredo amid fresh salmon, shrimp and scallops; and Tortellini di’ Torino, involving filet beef tips, fresh spinach and shiitake mushrooms.

Hooray for Creme Brulee

This rich, custard-based treat draws rave reviews from Garibaldi guests. White chocolate makes a welcome appearance, and the dessert is crowned with a layer of hardened caramelized sugar along with fresh berries.

The item’s distinctive flavor, though, comes from one essential ingredient.

“We use fresh vanilla bean, which makes all the difference,” Garibaldi owner Arken Elhicheri reveals.

Bonus tip: Garibaldi’s creme brulee is so decadent that you should strongly consider sharing it with your tablemate. With that recommendation out of the way, we certainly won’t judge you if you insist on eating the entire dessert yourself. Either way, it’s well worth the caloric splurge.

Outstanding off-menu specials are served daily and span the gamut from braised lamb or venison chops to coffee-rubbed steak.

“We like to go out of the box from typical Italian fare,” says Elhicheri.

In the mood for pizza? You can’t go wrong with the specialty pie, Genovese Bechamel, topped with grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, ricotta, mozzarella, goat cheese, pesto and toasted pignolis (pine nuts). Then there’s Toscana, which features fig jam, prosciutto, fresh buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, arugula and balsamic reduction. If you prefer to keep it simple, order the square Grandma’s Pizza with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, fresh mozzarella and basil.

Save room for dessert, as all items are created in house by the unassuming Hortencia Morelos. If you find it difficult to choose, order the extraordinary creme brulee (see sidebar), Kahlúa-laden tiramisu or mascarpone cheesecake. Top off the experience with a cappuccino, espresso or dessert wine.

Speaking of libations, white and red wine is available by the glass or bottle.

“I engineered the wine list from the lightest to the heaviest,” Elhicheri explains. “Since our food is European, it has to be matched with European wines. The list contains mostly French and Italian selections.”

Perhaps the only dynamic at Garibaldi that’s more impressive than food is the superb level of service. Friendly, knowledgeable waitstaff are eager to please, constantly smiling as they refill drink glasses, take orders and deliver plates to the table. During a recent visit, one patron even received a welcoming hug from a longtime server.

Owner Arken Elhicheri

“You cannot teach happiness, so when I’m hiring I look for people who reflect positivity in their lives,” Elhicheri says, adding that he considers his staff to be like family members. “They all know how much I care about them.”

That love and appreciation inspires staff to take good care of guests like Fuquay resident Andy Napier.

“The servers certainly help Garibaldi to provide the best dining experience in town,“ Napier says. “I especially appreciate when they make recommendations of a special dish.”

Garibaldi is open seven days a week and accepts reservations online or by phone. A semi-private room is available on a first-come, first-served basis on weekdays. Enjoy al fresco dining on the intimate patio and live dinner music in the main dining room Thursday through Sunday.

At Garibaldi, everyone is treated as a special guest.

Garibaldi Trattoria
900 North Main Street, Fuquay-Varina
(919) 552-8868

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