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PIZZA! In Chapel Hill or Durham

My birthday is happening next month, so I've been starting to consider where I'd like to eat.

I love pizza. But.

I usually make pizza myself or get it from a couple of places local to us in Hillsborough because they are close. I hardly ever order it when I actually go to a restaurant. I think Mellow Mushroom is my entire order-it-and-eat-it-at-the-venue restaurant experience with pizza. That's just wrong.

So can anyone direct me to places in the Chapel Hill or Durham that have great pizza? A nice beer and wine list and a nice atmosphere would be good also, but a place that is worth visiting just for the pizza would be just fine as well. I like just about every type and variety of pizza you can think of (except "Hawaiian" pizza - for some reason I HATE pineapple) so the type of crust, riffs on ingredients, etc. is all good to me.


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  1. The best pizza in Chapel Hill is at Italian Pizzeria III on W. Franklin. It is authentic NY style. As for atmosphere, well, there certainly is a unique atmosphere with the owners yelling in Italian at each other and at the soccer games on TV. But, the food is very good and they are great guys.

    1. I like the pizza at Panzanella in Carrboro (but very close to CH). The atmosphere there is also very nice, and they also have good salads, pasta, etc. Good beer and ok wine choices. The 4 cheese pizza is especially killer.

      1. I like the brick oven pizza at Bocci in Durham (of Fayetteville St. not far from Southpoint). It's in one of those wierd new neo-strip-mall-like places, but the interior is old-school American-Italian restaurant, darkish with booths and it's almost always packed, so it's a fun place to go. We always get the side of sauteed greens to pile on top of our sausage pizza - odd habit perhaps, but delicious.

        1. Pizza in the Triangle generally stinks. That being said, I second the votes for Panzanella and Bocci. N.B., Panzanella serves an upscale, Italian-style pie, not the standard NY style. Be prepared to spend somewhat more than pizza usually costs.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sinophile

            I've eaten at Panzanella before, but I've never tried the pizza. I have liked the other stuff I've had. Carrboro's traffic and parking situation generally makes me want to grind my teeth, though. Of course, this will be a Monday night, so maybe it won't be so bad.

            Drat - just looked and they're closed on Mondays.

            1. re: romansperson

              Open for lunch on mondays, but yes, disappointingly closed for dinner.

          2. You live in Raleigh, how have you not been to Lilly's? Very delicious, in my opinion. The atmosphere is . . . well "nice" isn't the word I'd use . . .it's not dirty or anything, just loud and smoky from the ovens. They have beer and wine, but it's an order-at-the-counter kind of place. BUT. Worth it. Best italian sausage I've ever had on a pizza.

            2 Replies
            1. re: dubedo

              Actually, I DON'T live in Raleigh, so my restaurant experience over there is very limited - it's an hour drive one way for us, so we don't go very often. The pizza photo on Lilly's web site looks pretty tempting though - I may have to plan a weekend thing that includes a lunch there ...

              1. re: romansperson

                Ah, my bad - I saw "Hillsborough" and my mind went to "Hillsborough Street." Scolding retracted!

            2. Thanks for the recs, everyone ... keep 'em coming if there are any more you can think of in Chapel Hill or Durham. I hope I can wait until next month. Everytime I visit this thread I get hungry!

              1. I quite enjoy Anna Maria's in Carrboro Plaza, but it may just be me. It has been claimed that they serve "New Jersey"-style pizza; whether this is true I can't say, since I've never been to NJ. But I do like it. No atmosphere to speak of, though.

                1. Alfredo's Pizza Villa in University Mall in Chapel Hill is worth a try. Alfredo is from Italy and he makes very thin crust pizza. Make sure to order a whole pizza rather than pre-made slices if you want to experience his best effort. Incidentally, Randy of Randy's pizza learned to make his pizza working for Alfredo before starting his own pizza joints in Durham.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bbqme

                    I like Alfredo's a whole lot too (although unlike you I am a big fan of the slices as well as the whole pie - very close to NY style).

                    1. re: bbqme

                      How is Randy's? I'm located about half way between Alfredo's and Randy's, but have always ordered from Alfredo's. Should I make a switch?

                      1. re: SenorSuarez

                        Randy's, the one on MLK, is okay but I like Alfredo's better for two reasons. First, it's a better experience. Alfredo is really friendly, he asks about my boys (I have 3 and he has 4), we talk about soccer, etc. At Randy's, it's all business. Second, he has better exotic pizzas. His white pizza is killer and while I like his thin crust, his focaccia crust pizza is so damn good! You have to call ahead a request it though so he has some extra time for the focaccia dough to rise. Apologies if you know this already.

                        And LulusMom, don't get me wrong, I'll get a slice (or two) when I'm at the mall but you have to agree that fresh out of the oven is going to be better than slices sitting around and then getting reheated, no?

                        1. re: bbqme

                          Oh, no question about it on the slices!

                          Speaking of Alredo's white pizza, sometimes we'll order a pizza "without the sauce" there in order to get a regular white pizza. Otherwise you get the one with all the toppings. But they're happy to do it that way. Its amazing with just some garlic and mushrooms.

                      2. re: bbqme

                        I've known Randy since he moved to Chapel Hill. He started working in pizza joints back in his native Florida. He moved up to Jacksonville NC to work at the Tony's Pizza in Jacksonville Mall, it's still there. His boss Vito opened up a Tony's in Unversity Mall and Randy wound up buying it. There were some issues with mall managment and a partner so he sold out and opened the Randy's on MLK. As far as I know he never worked for Alfredo. I like Randy's by the slice a lot but I guess I'm biased lol.

                        Other places I think are worth a visit
                        IP III
                        411 West
                        Pizza Palace

                      3. Randy's on Hope Valley Road in Durham across from Woodcroft Shopping Center.
                        Pulcinella's in Woodcroft Shopping Center.
                        Italian Pizzaria in Chapel Hill.
                        Mellow Mushroom in Durham or Raleigh (despite the numerous folks who seem to dislike MM...I like it very much).

                        1. Why hasn't anyone recommedned Pepper's on Franklin St? Have they closed?

                          You really ought to schlep sometime to Raleigh for Lilly's. It's amazing. They strive to use as much organic as they can. Super Duper, the all meat pizza? Criminally good. The Buddah...wow.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: eightlegeddj

                            I'm not sure what's going on with Pepper's. The last time I went by it looked boarded up but their Citysearch entry looks current (edit: OK, I just checked and they've moved down the street a bit, not far from their original location).

                            And we'll definitely try Lilly's the next time I have a reason to be over there.

                          2. Chapel Hill:

                            Alfredo's - best 'basic' NY-style pizza. currently boycotting b/c they stopped delivering to my neighborhood w/o a minimum order, but it hurts!!

                            Pepper's - didn't close, just moved 3 doors down to the old Miami Subs location. Less cool venue, pizza still very good, especially the specialty ones. Calzones are spectacular.

                            In the decent department - Pazzo's, Brixx, NY Pizza, Sal's, etc...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sabarrett

                              I second your recommendations...although, I havent lived in Chapel Hill for a couple years, when I go back we always hit up Alfredo's and Pepper's---reliving high school memories but the quality hasn't seemed to slip. I also love Brixx. They have some great salads too.

                            2. Here's another vote for Bocci. I like both their Nonna's and Brick Oven styles.


                              1. We just went to Brixx this weekend and were pleasantly surprised with how delicious it was! I had an artichoke sundried tomato pizza and it was scrumptious. I definitely recommend it. Enjoy!

                                1. Edible pizza in the Chapel Hill area:

                                  Bocci on Fayetteville St near Southpoint
                                  Sal's in Eastgate in Chapel Hill
                                  Panzanella in Carrboro
                                  Alfredo's in University Mall

                                  and my current favorite:

                                  411 West on Franklin Street has surprisingly decent pizza.

                                  1. Thanks so much for all the suggestions! I think we're going to try Bocci for my birthday on Monday and we'll go to Italian Pizzeria III soon too - maybe during UNC spring break so we can find a place to park. :)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: romansperson

                                      Have fun, but be careful about ordering the other things on the menu. The last time we went we had a brick oven za which was very good, but our son ordered the chicken parm which was oh so not so. Happy birthday!

                                      1. re: suse

                                        Thanks for the tip and the birthday wishes! I definitely plan on pizza - and the one Italian thing I've never liked is chicken parmesan, no matter who makes it. Don't know why... I just find it blech. Will warn the husband if he's thinking about choosing it.

                                    2. I like Patzo (sp?) at Southern Village. They have nice-ish restaurant on one side and a take out pizza place on the other that serves a very decent slice. They're are some tables and such outside for when the weather is nice, not that the ambiance at Southern Village is great or anything.....

                                      1. well, there's also always Pizza Palace in Durham on Guess rd...endless pizza, though new location seems to be dreadfully stuck in the 80's, and packs in quite a crowd...

                                        i loved the old locale...which was actually painfully stuck in the 70's so i guess they're moving up...lol

                                        1. I definitely recommend trying IP III. If you go on a week night (and not a game night) the parking isn't bad at all, we usually find a space right in front of the place so don't let that stop you from going! Also on Sundays and Tuesdays, they have a special where you get a large chz pizza and pitcher of beer (something cheap like Bud Light or Miller Light for only 10 or 11 bucks). I'm trying to make myself branch out but I always end up getting their pizza with garlic, fresh basil and tomatoes. So good!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: schmems

                                            This place is definitely next on the list. We did try out Bocci's - good, but not great. The search continues ...

                                            1. re: romansperson

                                              Let everyone know what you think of IPIII. I hope you like it as much as I do.

                                          2. Well, I FINALLY made it to IP III and am asking myself what took me so long. It's not exactly on our general trajectory and there is that pesky parking issue in Chapel HIll, but since we're also into watching the Eurocup we thought we'd drop by for a pizza and to catch some of the Italy-Romania game yesterday. Holy. Cow. It was like taking a mini-trip to Italy. The guys behind the counter were on fire and the place was packed. We had a very delicious margarita pizza. For a non-brick oven place, this pizza is as good as any I've had without all the fancy hoo-ha. Go if you haven't been. Oh, and does anyone know if the Italian Pizzeria on Roxboro in Durham is any good - is it also run by Italians?

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: suse

                                              OK, this is high praise indeed. I've been putting off trying this place due to some of the comments about undercooked 'za (which just sounds gross). Now for my usual question: do they have beer/wine?

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                Yes, they do have beer/wine. Pitchers of Yuengling are $6.95 for the month because of the Eurocup. I saw that they have wine for $3.50/glass. I'm sure it's cheap swill, but what else do you want at a pizza dive? I'm going to say that if you go during a game, make sure they make your pizza well done, as some others have suggested. Was it you who mentioned in the past that you like greasy pizza? It's not greasy.

                                                1. re: suse

                                                  I like greasy NY-style, and I also like wood-fire. I just want it to be good whichever style it is. Right now my favorites in the area are Alfredos (for the greasy style) and Panzanella.

                                                  There is nothing like a place with good pizza and pitchers of beer. Thanks for the info.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    if you walk by IP III late after they close, you'll be treated to all oily overweight italian guys that run the place counting their money shirtless! *shudder*

                                                    1. re: TSQ75

                                                      Their website is pretty funny. Makes the food look shudder-worthy too, unfortunately.

                                              2. re: suse

                                                This sounds great! We'll definitely have to make it over there soon.

                                                Tomorrow, though, I might actually get to try Lilly's, as there is a possibility I may be out in Raleigh.

                                                1. re: romansperson

                                                  Please report back - I have friends who swear Lilly's is the best around, but as a Durhamite I'm reluctant to go all the way to Raleigh just to eat - gas prices and all.....I would definitely love to go if I'm over there anyway, though I really want to try J. Betski's first.

                                                  1. re: suse

                                                    Unfortunately the Lilly's thing didn't work out. I did end up in Raleigh but didn't have time to go over there - it was farther away from where we needed to be than I'd originally thought. But - we did go to J. Betski's in March and it was fantastic. Worth the time and money. There's also a very nice wine store across the street ...

                                              3. I'm sad to report that Randy has sold his interest in the MLK Randy's. The operation there the first week was a mess, and the pizza was blah. He apparently has partnership in the one at Northgate, and the one in Morrisville for RTP. But from a once a week habit at the MLK for lunch, near where I work, I'm pizza-bereft.

                                                1. I strongly recommend carry out or delivery from Pop's now that they have that option: http://popsbackdoor.com/

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: PeterB

                                                    I recommend the Italian Pizzeria on Guess Road - it's very good. Great lunch specials during the week. Decent atmosphere .

                                                    1. re: steveindurham

                                                      Are they showing the Eurocup too, do you suppose? In other words, did you notice a tv there?

                                                  2. Pepper's works for me, as does Mellow Mushroom (but they moved to Durham)... Brixx is good but is a more fru-fru pizza

                                                    1. Just went to Sal's in Chapel Hill this weekend. We had slices of ham, mushrooms, anchovies and meatballs. The meatball slice I had almost fell apart because of too many meatball slices. Not that that's a bad thing...I should have eaten it right away instead of yapping. Crunchy yet chewy crust. Very prompt and friendly service. They had wine, but we did not partake. Would go there again. Well, not specifically Eastgate, because...

                                                      They will be moving out of Eastgate soon and going near the Burger King down 15-501. Don't quote me but I think that's either on Elliott Rd or S Estes Dr...there's a sign by the front door as you check out that has the new address. One employee I spoke with said they just didn't get enough foot traffic, because unless you know where they are [or see the banner that says "Sal's Pizza"] you can't find it. New location should be easier to find and get a parking space, too.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: tardis52

                                                        for me in chapel hill it's peppers. i now live in hillsborough, too, and so i don't eat pizza so much anymore :)

                                                        i've had brixx and it's fine. sal's is good, not as good as pepper's to me, but it's tasty and consistent. IP3 is good, but not good enough to get me to go there regularly. i understand for some it will be very appealing. i'll have to try alfredos.

                                                        sorry to hear about randy selling his interest in the MLK. i know randy a bit, too, and he works very hard to put out a quality product. i used to work near the MLK location and ate there regularly.

                                                      2. I have to speak up and say that since Pepper's changed locations, it is too horribly loud to go. The acoustics are horrible - the music coming from the kitchen is always turned up to eleven, and even without music the diners' conversation bounces off the ceiling and walls, LOUDLY. I'll only get takeout from now on.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: tamalesfordinner

                                                          i really haven't had that experience at pepper's the half dozen times or so i've been since they moved. i actually found it less loud at the new location due to the size of the space. though the remnants of the miami subs in the new peppers is a bit disconcerting :)

                                                        2. Rudino's Pizza and Grinders in the Northgate area of Durham is the best IMO