Back in the day, I spent a lot of time hanging out on the Raleigh City Data Forums. The message board threads range from exciting new information to skeptic Northerners thinking about migrating south. In this sea of chatter, one poster has always been informative, providing the scoop on new developments or event lists. On the City Data forums he is known as North_Raleigh_Guy, but he's better know as the Triangle Explorer.
Of course it would be in one of his posts that I learned about the North Raleigh mirage Lafayette Village. Seemingly ripped straight off of the 7th arrondissement, Lafayette Village is highlighted by its European architecture and even a mini Eiffel Tower. Located inside this slice of Europe is Paparazzi Ristorante Italiano. Hoping to get the word out about their Sunday brunch buffet, they invited me and a few friends to give it a run-through.
As other breakfast/brunch buffets offer endless rows of scattered dishes, Paparazzi's buffet concentrates on a few choice breakfast favorites and Italian staples. One of these brunch trademarks is the omelet station. Paparazzi again chooses to highlight just a few omelet fillers. The lack of choice didn't bother me as my onion. bacon, spinach, and mozzarella cheese omelet was nicely cooked and flavorful.
There is just something special about a pizza that comes out of a wood oven -- the thin and crispy crust, the bits of burn marks, and the little air bubbles that develop from the intense heat. Staying with the theme, the buffet focuses on three quailty pizzas from their wood oven rather than an offering tons of variety.
Out of all the dishes served at the buffet, the food that kept me coming back was the pizza. Granted, I am an easy sell for pizza, but I always found great wood fire pizza to be elusive in Raleigh. Paparazzi satisfied that long lingering desire.
Other breakfast staples like potatoes and an eggs Benedict finalized my first plate at the buffet. I think eggs benny is difficult enough to master per order, much less allowing the dish to sit in a serving tray for a few minutes. The york solidifies and the muffin gets soggy.
Plopping down at the table after her first trip to the buffet, Sara excitedly declared to those of us at the table, "the French toast looks really good!" We determined the reason the French toast looked so good is that it was deep fried. Each slice was uniformly crispy, with a delightful crunch and cushy center in every bite. It was the best breakfast item of the buffet.
The pork duo of sausage and bacon also accompany the rest of the breakfast all-stars. Nothing spectacular. As per my typical complaint, the bacon was chewy.
Cuddled next to the omelet station is Paparazzi's pasta station. Other than the toppings, which were the sames as the omelet station, the choices were between bowtie or fettuccine and white or red sauce. By the time the chef piled my red sauce and mozzarella bowtie pasta in its bowl I was pretty excited to taste. Unfortunately, I was a disappointed that the pasta was lukewarm and the red sauce overbearingly sweet.
Chicken Marsala rounded out the collection of Italian staples, something I also think is better left to be cooked to order. The breading was mushy and the sauce was a bit congealed and goopy.
For the traditional brunch experience, I visited the a carving station. I tend to shy away from carving stations but the meat at Paparazzi's was surprisingly tender. Served with horseradish, the beef was a welcome addition to my meal, already on its way to bloated status.
Rounding out the end of the meal was Paparazzi's impressive collection of desserts. Much like the savory part of the buffet, there are some familiar desserts like cheesecake bites and bread pudding, partnered with Italian pastries, like napoleon cookies and cannoli.
Paparazzi's brunch is a destination away from the biscuits and fatback of traditional Southern brunches in the area... but there is that delicious deep fried French toast.