For some pleasant reason, the NC Triangle seems to be on a roll when it comes to Italian food over the past couple of years. From Gocciolina to Farina Italian and the refreshes of Il Palio and Enrigo Italian Bistro, we’re now awash in excellent Italian eats and marinara sauce! And you can add one more to the list, the Boot. While it’s been open for a year or so, new Chef John May has brought about a delicious sensibility to this cool eatery. Note: Chef John has moved to the Piedmont while Chef Rob Kinneen takes over the Boot. Want to check them out with me? Read on, my friend…
From the outside, the Boot doesn’t look like much with its generic strip mall signage and face. And the name doesn’t impress much either but not to worry! Open the front door and the Boot opens up dramatically to a high-ceiling dining room that stretches out long and deep. Four-tops up front made of beautiful, heavily-grained reclaimed wood, two large communal tables to the left side and then a bar in back. It’s a good-looking space with plenty of artwork on the walls and a good airy feel.
The place is quiet for my Saturday lunch but I head on back to the bar as a solo diner. The Boot’s menu is pretty classic Italian with your apps, salads, pastas and pizzas but with gourmet ingredients. I’m in a pizza mood today so I go with a sausage pie with roasted fennel and fennel pollen. I have NO clue what that last item is but let’s give it a whirl!
I grab a glass of vino at the bar and the staff here is hustling and working hard, a slightly hipster and casual feel. It takes a bit for my pizza (15 minutes) but when I see it, I understand why. It’s not a thin neapolitan that’ll cook up in 5 minutes, the Boot does a thicker crust and my individual pie is loaded with toppings, beautiful! The pizza is covered with fresh, crumbled sausage, mushroom slices and the charred fennel (although I thought it looked like onion). I love that the sauce goes to the edges and there’s some nice splotches of white mozzarella even though it’s hard to see with all the toppings.
But one bite has me convinced, the Boot is the real deal! The crust is puffy, nearly like a slender Sicilian pie. It’s a medium to thick crust but still maintains a good snappy crust on the bottom. Paired with a bright sauce and all the great toppings, it’s a filling pie. I make it through four of these small slices and ask for the box. Service at the bar was quite good and quick, I was in and out, quick like a bunny. All I can say is that I would like to get back for a return visit soon and try more off the Boot’s menu. While it looks deceptively simple, I think there’s more to it than meets the eye and I will need to confirm that thought, happily and hungrily. Until next time the Boot! Keep kicking it with that great Italian food and pizza for Durhamites…
2501 University Drive
Durham, NC 27707