When it comes to Neapolitan pizza, I’m a huge fan! And with all the good Neapolitan pizza in the Triangle, I was curious to see what Chef Ashley Christensen was going to do with her new restaurant, Poole’side Pies. With five restaruants in her culinary orbit, Poole’side represented a bit of a pivot away from her usual Southern-New American cuisine to a more European bent. And given its key location next door to the heart of her restaurant empire, Poole’side Pies would have some big shoes to fill. As construction moved forward on the space at 208 S. Saunders, there was a ton of build-up and hype for the opening of Poole’side Pies. Would that anticipation and those expectations be met? Yes and no in my opinion! Read on for the details, my friend!
Given all the build-up to Poole’side Pies, I can tell you for sure that getting a seat in this hot spot is not easy. Now open 7 days a week, things have gotten a bit easier so I was able to sneak in for a dinner, early on a quiet Monday. Approaching Poole’side Pies you’ll be greeted with a large, aquamarine presence that defines the main color palette of the restaurant. With large plate glass windows up front and a glass skylight above, the space is very light, bright and airy. There’s a hostess kiosk and seating area up front with a flower mural and touch of orange in the bench seating. Overall there’s a lot of white tile, offset by turquoise and chrome giving the space a 70’s feel. Like most of the AC Restaurants, your party will not be seated until everyone is there.
Poole’Side Pies has a short selection of cocktails (aperol spritzes are featured), beers along with a more substantial wine list by the glass and bottle. One note, the draft beer I ordered came in a diminutive pilsner glass at maybe 12 oz? Don’t expect a full pint glass for your draft beer here. Behind the bar is a beautiful back-lit scene of a diver underwater, very apropos. Once you’re seated, you get your usual efficient service that you’ll find at AC Restaurants.
If you’re visiting for the first time, I’d suggest ordering up an appetizer or two. Clocking in at $7 or so, the appetizers at Pooleside Pies are excellent and affordable. On my visit, there was the mac n cheese frittatine or shrimp and grits croquettes, fried balls similar to arancini. The mac n cheese frittatine is served with a strong tomato relish, excellent. And the shrimp and grits croquettes are wonderful, perfectly fried and served with a tomato-sherry mayonnaise.
For pizzas, we ordered up the classic margherita and a sausage, broccoli rabe and provolone pie. With only six choices on the menu, it won’t take you long to order at Poole’side Pies but I usually always get the margherita on the first visit since it’s the standard for a Neapolitan. Given the pies are cooked in a wood-fired oven (typically 800 degrees or so), they bake really quickly and one Italian oven is used for the entire restaurant, pretty amazing. And when the pies show up, they look solid. Some charring on the edges and leopard spotting underneath, the tops are garnished with what appears to be freshly shredded parmesan. The sauce looks pretty dark so I suspect the tomatoes are cooked a bit for a deeper flavor but Neapolitan pies are supposed to use just crushed San Marzano tomatoes. Both pizzas are decent for visit #1 and I was initially concerned but a second visit (two months later) showed a much improved crust. The crust on my second visit was nicely rolled and displayed the light, airy texture of a good Neapolitan pizza dough. Glad to see the improvement because the crust is the pizza IMO.
The meal wraps up and with an inexpensive bottle of wine, the tab runs about $100 before tip, so certainly expect to spend a bit during your Pooleside Pies visit. The challenge as an upscale pizzeria is that there’s SO much good pizza at lower price points. But Poole’side Pies certainly delivers when it comes to design and ambiance, it’s a truly beautiful space and the service is solid. And now that the pizza has improved, I can certainly recommend Poole’side pies from appetizers to pizza. Given the price points at Poole’side Pies and reputation of AC Restaurants, I wouldn’t expect any less…
428 S McDowell Street
Raleigh, NC 27601