If you’re a Neapolitan pizza aficionado like I am, it’s a good time to be in the Triangle! From the old Bella Mia in Cary to Pizzeria Toro and Tre Forni in Durham along with Pizzeria Mercato in Carrboro, we’ve had some good options. But oddly enough, Raleigh was left out in this burst of artisan pizza for the Triangle. So it was with a sigh of relief when I heard that Pizza La Stella was opening in downtown Raleigh. Moving into the old Bolt Bistro space, Pizza La Stella touts itself as the place for wood-fired Neapolitan pizza along with craft cocktails. So of course I couldn’t resist and headed over in the new year to make sure 2017 got off to a good start. And here’s what I discovered at the new Pizza La Stella…
As you head through the darkened front face of Pizza La Stella, you’re not sure what to expect. I hadn’t been a huge fan of the two previous restaurants in this location so I was super curious. And thankfully, Pizza La Stella has done a GREAT job with its interior and decor. The space is substantial with very high ceilings and large greenhouse type windows which allow for a ton of natural light. The interior design is focused around weathered wood, paying tribute to Pizza La Stella’s wood-fired oven and the deliciousness it can cook up. For my lunch visit, Pizza La Stella does not do table service (which may change) and you order and pay at the front hostess area. With a short list of apps, salads, chicken wings and specialty pizzas, it makes the decision pretty quick: pizza AND wings, woohoo! Lunches run $10 to $13 with a drink while for dinner time, pizzas are $14 to $19, a bit pricey.
For lunch, you self-service your drink and it gives me a time to check out Pizza La Stella’s space while I wait for my food. From the wonderful smoky smells emanating from the kitchen to the wood-focused interior (tables, plank flooring, beam timbers), they’ve done a wonderful job making this very large space feel cozy. I spot the 2nd floor landing which is reached through a set of stairs in back, the manager tells me I should check it out after lunch so… It takes about 15 minutes or so and my wings come out first, served up on a round, aluminum pie platter. Served up with some pickled and roasted onions, the wings show off some serious char. I take a bite and they are certainly smoky but a bit dry given the oven-roasted treatment. While I like the idea of taking advantage of the wood-fired oven, in this case the wings could use some more moisture (olive oil? marinade?) to keep some in.
Next up is my Bolognese pizza which comes withe meatballs and garlic confit. Size-wise it’s about 11″ across and definitely single serving in my book! Pizza La Stella does their pizza with a mix of mozzarella, fontina and romano cheeses which tells you right off the bat, these are not really Neapolitan pies. Officially Neapolitan pizza is held to VERY strict standards of 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala. So Pizza La Stella is doing a bit of a variant on a Neapolitan pie if you want to get technical. I take a peek under the pizza and the crust is nicely spotted underneath so nice job by the pizziaolo with the oven!
I take a bite and there’s a good hit of tomato acid, melty cheese, rich sausage along with pungent garlic, nice. The Bolognese pie here will definitely keep the vampires away. The crust is nicely done but not quite as tender (or raised) as I’ve seen in other Neapolitan pizza places, but good enough. Overall it’s a tasty little pie with good flavor, even if it’s not a traditional Neapolitan pie in my opinion. Service is decent at Pizza La Stella but obviously with the light lunch service, too early to fully judge.
I grab a box to take my leftovers home because as usual, I’ve over-ordered for my first visit. After packing up, I head upstairs to the Loft, Pizza La Stella’s 21 and over cocktail lounge which is tucked away overhead. The lounge is relaxed and warm with stuffed couches and chairs, exuding a bit of modern Continental air. Apparently they have full food service up here along with a full bar which could be interesting on a quiet evening. Overall it was an impressive first visit. A+ for the interior but a C for the food until they get some kinks worked out. Given it’s just opened so recently, you have to take everything with a grain of salt and give the staff and kitchen time to settle in. So until next we meet, Pizza La Stella! Keep up the good work and good start, I’ll seeya soon!
219 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, NC 27601