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Jul 10, 2013 09:19 PM

Pompieri Pizza, downtown Durham

So, it looks like the owner of Bull City Burger is opening a second restaurant in downtown, Pompieri Pizza. Wood-fired, local ingredients, "a pizza joint with a fine-dining approach." I'm sure it'll be delicious, but why oh why are we getting another wood-fired pizza joint downtown, when we already have Pizzaria Toro? What is the goal here? Do we really really want downtown saturated with pizza, burgers and beer, or can we introduce a little diversity into the downtown dining scene? I'm not a restaurant owner, so maybe it's just all too easy for me to think about how great it would be to see something that's not totally mainstream open up downtown. I can imagine Indonesian, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Jewish deli, or Lebanese. Even a great Italian restaurant, with homemade pastas, osso bucco, and other hearty fare would be great. But I find it a little disheartening that we may see two good pizza places duke it out, rather than seeing our downtown dining options really expand.

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  1. Totally agree! Durham could use another good, wood-fired pizza joint but why put it downtown where there's already Pizzeria Toro? As to an Italian restaurant downtown I think L'Uva is really good!

    16 Replies
    1. re: bbqme

      +1 - L'Uva has been very good the times I have been. Fresh, in-house made pastas with great sauces/ragu.

      1. re: bbqme

        Oh, and Pop's is pretty good as well. I've enjoyed their gnocchi.

        1. re: bbqme

          I agree about L'Uva. Best Italian restaurant in the Triangle.

          Piedmont never was strictly Italian, although they used to have enough pasta dishes on the menu to eat an Italian-style dinner if one chose well.

          (Italian-style = antipasti + pasta course + meat course)

          1. re: bbqme

            Just ate pizza at Pizzeria Toro for the first time and I for one will welcome a new Pizzeria close by.

            1. re: chazzer

              Bummer. What left you underwhelmed? My only issue, and it's minor, has been with the non-pizza dishes being pricey for their size. I wasn't looking for more food, just a little expensive for a small appetizer of raw vegetables, for example. I could see some not loving the blistered crust as much as I do, but the texture and toppings of the pizza's are top notch. The beverage program and service are also very strong for a pizza joint. This is based on multiple visits.

              1. re: veganhater

                There were four of us, the crust on the pizzas ranged from tan to burnt black. My pizza was half under seasoned and the other half over seasoned, like when he sprinkled the salt he put all of it on just half the pie.

                All of us complained that the pizzas were bland and tasteless. Comparing it to places like Sally's or Pepe's in New Haven, Totonno's in Brooklyn, or Osteria Vetri in Philadelphia, it is not that good.

                The place is style over substance, and it is uncomfortable and overly loud, Plus when I pay over $14 per 12-inch pizza I don't want to sit next to strangers like I am in a slice joint.

                And note to waitress - if you are going to be condescending and nose in the air, learn how to pronounce Gianduia correctly.

                1. re: chazzer

                  Not a normal night as far as the pizza's are concerned. I've never had a bland pie there. I have had a couple that bordered on having too much char.

                  1. re: chazzer

                    Same as Gianduja? Just never seen is spelled that way. See its too bad appetizing never really stuck around (hell deli's, the good ones, are a dime a dozen) and so that would have been a good use of the location that pompieri is going but I'd still jump for a good ramen/yakitori outpost. It may scream hipster but I think it would work.

                    1. re: chazzer

                      Huh. Just took my picky out of town relatives there for dinner a couple of nights ago and it was a big hit. Four different pizzas (the mushroom, the anchovy, the sausage and the potato) and everyone liked what they tried. My only complaint is that I found the tomato sauce on my anchovy a little too sweet - no one else at the table could understand what I was talking about and thought it was spicy (I *like* spicy). My pizza was probably the most cooked, closest to charred, but not in any way a problem for my tastes, but I realize everyone has different taste on stuff like that. We had 3 starter salads to share and were especially taken with the fresh corn with truffles. The kohlrabi and celery was also very nice and refreshing. The place was packed early and very loud, but fun. Tons of kids there. I'd say the potato pizza with bagna cauda was my favorite - sounds weird but is so wonderful.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Was the mushroom pizza the one with creminis? I had that one and the only flavor there - and I mean only - was the salt sprinkled on at the end. I also had a problem with how scant the mushrooms were, especially since you can get them for $5/lb. retail at HT. Not exactly a budget-buster for the restaurant.
                        I also tried the arugula pie and the only discernible flavor there was the arugula. Other ingredients were present by visual confirmation only.
                        There were times during the meal that the smell of burning crust was getting overwhelming. I've never experienced that in any coal- or wood-burning pizza restaurant.
                        Maybe it was a truly off night, but 4 of us, aged mid 50's through early 20's all had the same reactions. Given the relatively high prices for what we got, the truly blah food, and how many other good restaurants are in walking distance, I'm just not feeling any compulsion to give them a second chance. Just my opinion.

                        1. re: rockycat

                          Yes, the creminis, and we all really loved the mushroom flavor and the cheese. Didn't notice salt, but I do think there was something I had a bite of that maybe had more salt on it than any other bite of food there (and it wasn't the anchovy).

                          As for over-cooking the crust, if one has the time to do it, I'd send it back and say exactly why. They may not realize they're losing customers because of it. Again, I didn't have this problem, and I wouldn't have really been able to send back this particular time, but I'd be PO'd too if my food came out burnt. We've eaten there 3 times and really liked it each time.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            The only pizza I have ever had in this area that came out burnt (and without time to return it in this case) was Lilly's and that only happened once out of the 3-4 times I've been.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              I've never been to Lily's. I wouldnt' want a burnt crust, so I understand the complaints about this.

                    2. re: veganhater

                      Veganhater, you mentioned the sides. We've had a couple of misses from the Antipasti section but are just about always impressed with the salads, which I think can be at the level of the best restaurants in the area...strong focus on local, seasonal, and flavorful. For example a guy who brings wood for the oven also brought a huge tree fungus which made its way serendipitously into the salads for a few days. So pizza for the kids with whatever they want from the salads and sides we're eating :-).

                      I've seen a couple of pizzas come out beyond blistered out of maybe 15 or 20 we've had there, so it happens, but not often for us. I do think the wine markups are too high.

                    3. re: chazzer

                      I would not hold my breath for Pompieri pizzas being better quality than Toro's. It's not like Bull City Burger is that outstanding. If it were, I might be more enthusiastic.

                  2. Totally agree. As for Italian fine dining the last report I read on Piedmont was pretty dismal. Has anyone been back? It has been years for me. It was a good place in the beginning and it's a shame it isn't still.

                    4 Replies
                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        Yes. Unless they have changed it. Have you heard that it is no longer Italian? I'd love any new info on the place. Such a shame that it went downhill so fast. Named for the region of Italy that is at the foot of the mountains (pied = foot; mont = mountain).

                        Edit: just looked up their menu - looks like they no longer *are* especially Italian. No pasta section, nothing that screamed Italian to me. But it did used to be.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          I always thought they got the name from the area of the Southeastern US called the Piedmont (which did come from the Italian area). I've never been, so I guess I never paid much attention, but the name always suggested NC to me, as opposed to Italy. In any event, per their website, they are "Contemporary American, seasonally focused and ingredient driven. Our menu changes daily based on what is currently available.". Did they really totally change concept at some point?

                          Edit: It appears the place changed owners in 2009, and perhaps went from Italian to its current format at that time. Interesting how the same name can fit two different concepts!

                          1. re: carolinadawg

                            I definitely think they were playing on the fact that they used local products to make Italian food in the beginning and that is why they picked that name. And yes, they were definitely very Italian then, but obviously not any more. Glad your question got me to look it up and find out they've changed.

                    1. I agree. Downtown Durham does not need another quality, wood-fired pizza joint.

                      Please send it to Raleigh. We can use it. :)

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: dinersaurus

                        Send Carrboro the Korean Fried chicken place across from NCSU and then we can talk...

                        1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                          Is it that much better than Korchipi in Chapel Hill?

                          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                            No deal. We'll send you a Bonefish Grill and half a dozen frozen yogurt places with faux Scandinavian names though.

                            1. re: dinersaurus

                              I think we can afford to be generous and send them Tilted Kilt too...

                        2. I said the same thing when they posted this. Cause what Durham needs is more pizza. Actually there is NO place that needs another pizza joint.. maybe Chapel Hill needs a wood fired pizza place but Durham has plenty of good/decent pizza options. It is too bad no one has the knowledge or ingenuity to open a ramen shop, yakitori bar, noodle bar or something like that. I'm not one to wish people bad luck, but I really do hope it bottoms up so that others will get the message that what I think most Durhamite want is diversity. It's not like you have to go far to either Lilly's, Toro, or the place in Brightleaf.. Satisfaction is it? Come on Durham.. be a little creative? Bring back a vegetarian place or something unique.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                            Yeah, speaking of casual veg places, I'd like to have something like Raleigh's Remedy Diner or Fiction Kitchen in Durham.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              Speaking of vegetarian, is Butternut Squash still open in Chapel Hill? Such an odd location that I never notice or think of it.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                According to Triangle Food Guy, Butternut Squash closed:


                                I guess Sage Cafe is still an option for veg dining in CH, but I've never been. I've been meaning to go there for quite some time.

                                1. re: ToothTooth

                                  Same here. I think of it when it isn't convenient or when my husband says "absolutely not" to the idea of vegetarian.

                                  Thanks for the info on Butternut Squash. I really think that location is a killer.

                                  1. re: ToothTooth

                                    And good riddance. That place was horrid. I never experienced Another Thyme when it was open but it was there for long enough that it must have been decent at best. There aren't many strictly vegetarian restaurants in the area but having one in each city would be nice. I mean it IS possible to eat vegetarian at many places but still. Sage is good but cramped and a bit pricey.

                                2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                  Burgeoningfoodie I LOVE your ideas for a noodle shop, yakitori bar, or something along those lines.

                                  I adore Revolution, and I eat there all the time. I wouldn't classify it as an Italian restaurant though. I haven't been back to L'Uva in quite some time, so I should probably give it another shot. If they had a liquor license, I'd probably get back there a lot sooner ;-)

                                3. Revolution does good Italian. I'm not saying they are Italian but that is the chefs background and the pastas are made in house.