When you think food in Western North Carolina, the first thing that comes to mind is not Italian cuisine. Get ready for a surprise. Bryson City, North Carolina boasts one of the best Italian restaurants this writer has ever been to and no one knows anything about it! Located on the main drag in Bryson City, North Carolina, just up from the famed Smoky Mountain Railroad station, this is not your mama’s tourist trap food. The owner, an Italian immigrant and deviser of the delicious menu, has put together something truly special in this local favorite.

Advertised as, “casually stylish, traditional Italian restaurant & pizzeria with an open kitchen & full bar,” it really lives up to the promise of good food, casual dining, and a nostalgic atmosphere. With a dark wood bar, polished dark wood floors, sculpture & other Italian art thrown in for flair, entering the establishment is a comfortably elegant experience. The staff was friendly and the menu was extensive enough that it should have something for everyone.

Since we’d just finished riding the train, our appetites were somewhere close to ravenous by the time my small party was seated at a table near the front window overlooking the historic buildings out front. Drinks were ordered and a basket of bread and dipping sauce were brought to our table without preamble. I could take a bath in that sauce! The warm bread soaked up the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spices providing just enough to stave off the hunger that had been gnawing my backbone since departing the train station. Finding out they sell the sauce by the bottle made my day. Reasonably priced and worth every penny, trust me when I say you’re going to want one of your own.

We ordered a good variety of food from the menu. I started with the caesar salad, the dressing of which was homemade and delicious, while the rest of my party ordered the artichoke & prosciutto. The appetizers arrived freshly made and perfectly timed with the emptying of our bread basket. We were almost too full for the main course after we finished the first courses but it was so good we had to keep going.

The four cheese pizza had a delectable brick oven taste and was made with homemade pizza sauce that was much better than any chain restaurant could ever produce. I ordered the Pasqualino Chicken Breast, which was a grilled breast smothered in a bleu cheese cream sauce. The waitress paired both the pizza and the chicken with good wines. Since Pasqualino’s boasts a full bar the bartender can make whatever adult beverage tickles your fancy if wine isn’t to your liking. They also have kid friendly beverages, so don’t be afraid to drag the kids along.

If you’re enjoying some of the other sights and experiences in Bryson City, definitely look up Pasqualino’s and have yourself a delicious meal. Your stomach will thank you!