Restaurant Spotlight: Spazio Vino & Cucina

The word is out: Spazio Vino & Cucina dishes up gourmet Italians fare from an experienced, neighborly chef.
The word is out: Spazio Vino & Cucina dishes up gourmet Italians fare from an experienced, neighborly chef.
Chef Gavazza’s philosophy: prepare and serve fresh food every day.
Chef Gavazza’s philosophy: prepare and serve fresh food every day.
Homemade desserts include tiramisu and panna cotta.
Homemade desserts include tiramisu and panna cotta.

After living in Holly Springs for nearly a decade, Italian chef Paolo Gavazza finally found a restaurant close enough for him to walk to work. Of course, it helps that he bought the place.

Spazio Vino & Cucina, a cozy 40-seat eatery, represents the fulfilment of a longtime vision for Gavazza. In case you are wondering, the word “Spazio” means “space” in Italian.

Born in Rome, Gavazza received his culinary training at the esteemed ALMA School of Italian Culinary Arts. He then embraced an opportunity to work at a Michelin-starred bistro in a small town in Italy, a job he refers to as “the best professional experience of my life.”

While attending a wedding in Scotland, Gavazza met Bonnie Wolcott, a Pennsylvania native, whom he ultimately married.

Chef and Owner Paolo Gavazza

“She’s the reason I moved to the United States,” the chef says with a smile.

Once settled in North Carolina, Gavazza further honed his craft in various kitchens like Enrigo Italian Bistro in Cary, Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar in downtown Raleigh, Convivio Restaurant & Wine Bar in Durham, and even during a brief stint as a private chef.

In recent years, Gavazza, his wife, and their teenage daughter frequented Ashley’s Harvest Moon Café in Holly Springs for breakfast.

“I told Ashley if she ever decided to close the business to let me know, as I have always loved the space,” Gavazza shares. “Then not long ago she told me she planned to get married and close the café.”

When Harvest Moon shut its doors last fall, Gavazza didn’t hesitate to sign a lease for the spot, which is conveniently situated less than half a mile from his home.

Spazio quietly began serving dinner with a soft opening in October 2023. Early on, the chef was seen bussing several tables before ducking back into the restaurant’s jewel box-sized kitchen to cook the next meal.

Word spread quickly about the new gourmet hideaway. Soon, tables were filled with eager customers.

“I didn’t expect all the business we received right away,” he says humbly. “It seems we picked just the right moment to start, as people have kept coming in to dine with us.”

Patrons now visit time and again for the bona fide Italian fare Gavazza dishes up with aplomb.

Among the irresistible antipasti selections, the star of the show is the tagliere, which involves a chef’s choice mixture of first-rate charcuterie and cheeses. On the day we visited, we grazed on Pecorino cheese and gorgonzola with aged balsamic vinegar, Tuscan salami, and speck, a smoked prosciutto. Never mind the drizzled raw honey, assorted nuts, and sweet Rainier cherries tossed in for good measure.

“The tagliere opens the flavor profile for the evening and allows you to experience what the restaurant is about,” says server Barrett Jones.

When you visit, be sure to order the crisp, house-made focaccia bread fashioned with four types of flour and served with extra virgin olive oil.

As for entrees, the house-favorite lasagna is a crowd-pleasing showstopper that literally melts in your mouth. Sausage-infused risotto brimming with fresh mushrooms and pumpkin puree will not disappoint. And if it’s available when you visit, consider the octopus cooked in tomato sauce with olives, capers, garlic, and white wine.

Gavazza sources his ingredients from Whole Foods as well as Virginia-based purveyor International Gourmet Foods.

“I enjoy going to the market each day and choosing the ingredients I want to cook,” Gavazza says. “My philosophy is to prepare and serve fresh food every day.”

Not only does the chef know his way around the kitchen, but he also possesses extensive knowledge about quality Italian wine to pair with the cuisine.

“Most of the wine available is what I really enjoy drinking,” says Gavazza, adding that much of the list is populated with selections from organic vineyards.

Possibilities such as Sicilian Passobianco Chardonnay and Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany are full bodied and satisfying to drink. Red and white wine is available by the bottle and the glass.

Don’t skip dessert. Whether you choose the refreshing panna cotta made with vanilla beans and homemade raspberry coulis or the classic tiramisu (our hands-down favorite), you’re sure to leave no trace behind.

In addition to traditional dinner service, Spazio also offers occasional multicourse wine dinners and special chef ’s table experiences that give Gavazza freedom to be more adventurous.

“We also host private events and cooking classes,” Gavazza says.

Décor is warm and inviting, with white linens covering the tables and a striking stone fireplace providing just the right level of soothing ambience.

Spazio is open Tuesday through Saturday starting at 4:30 p.m. for dinner. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Holly Springs Crossing
128 Bass Lake Road, Holly Springs
(919) 285-3596

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