Google pizza Raleigh NC and youll get more than 200 hits. Do the same for Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary, and youll get a similar number for each (surprising footnote: Chapel Hill returns the highest number, 226 on a recent search).
Any way you cut it, thats a lot of pizza.
The overwhelming majority of pizzerias bill themselves as New York style, though you wont have any trouble finding a place where you can score a thick, bready Sicilian pizza or a wood-fired California style with a cornucopia of offbeat topping options.
But even a diligent search will turn up only a handful of places in the entire Triangle where you can satisfy a craving for the deep-dish, Chicago-style pies that are the specialty of Acme Pizza Co. in Holly Springs. And youll search in vain for anything quite like Patrick Janes Gourmet Pizza Bar in Cary.
Acme Pizza Co.
Acme Pizza Co. is J.P. and Gwynne LaRussas first restaurant, but the couple are by no means novices in the Chicago style pizza that is the restaurants specialty. They moved to the Triangle from San Francisco, where J.P. LaRussa spent more than 25 years working for a local chain called Zacharys Chicago Pizza.
Zacharys brought Chicago style to the Bay area, says LaRussa, whose pride is evident when he describes how the distinctive stuffed deep dish pies are made.
First, theres the substantial bottom crust with its 2-inch high sides, pressed into an oiled pan. Then come the mozzarella and toppings Italian sausage, peppers and onions, say, if youre a traditionalist, or fresh spinach and broccoli if you want to go vegetarian. With some two dozen toppings to choose from (a few, such as grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella, cost extra), you can get creative. Whatever the combination, its applied generously enough to back up the deep dish aspect of these pies.
Finally comes a thin top crust and crowning layer of crushed tomatoes, earning the stuffed part of the description.
And stuffed is just how youll feel if you eat more than a single slice of a large pizza. I threw in the towel after two slices of a medium recently, and took home the leftovers which I then weighed, and calculated that a medium pie tips the scales at a hefty 4 pounds.
Be forewarned that it takes a half hour or longer for these behemoths to bake. You can fill the time pleasantly enough with a glass of wine or a pint of draft beer. But if you want to do justice to the pizza, Id suggest taking a cautious approach when it comes to ordering appetizers. The wings arent bad, though in this case maybe youd be better off with just a salad.
Acme Pizza Co. is a very casual place, the sort of pizzeria where stacks of pizza boxes near the ovens signify a strong takeout business. On a chalkboard behind the bar, circles are drawn to illustrate the sizes of Chicago-style and New York-style pizzas.
Thats right, Acme also does New York style. Its a carryover from the pizzeria that previously occupied the space, according to J.P. LaRussa, and no doubt a convenient takeout option for locals. But if Im driving all the way to Holly Springs from Cary, its Chicago style Im after.
Patrick Janes Gourmet Pizza Bar
On one wall of Patrick Janes Gourmet Pizza Bar hangs a photo of the most misshapen pizza youve ever seen. Written across the pizza in tomato sauce are the words MARRY ME? Below the picture, a caption reads how it all began ...
Ngiare Hubbard, who opened Patrick Janes in October with her husband, Kevin, explains: Its how I proposed to Kevin on Sadie Hawkins Day in 2012. The toppings are bacon and pineapple, our favorites.
And it turns out that the pizza is not misshapen at all. Hubbard painstakingly formed it in the shape of her native Australia.
The pizzas at Patrick Janes, which the couple opened in October, arent shaped like landforms. But theyre certainly distinctive: oval, with length determined by the size ordered. The organic wheat crust (a gluten-free crust is also offered) is very thin so thin that flatbread comes to mind as an apt description with a bite somewhere between crisp and chewy.
The crust is by no means the only distinctive feature of Patrick Janes pizzas. The house-made tomato sauce is organic, as are many toppings. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options abound. At the other end of the spectrum, all meats are antibiotic- and hormone-free, and all come from North Carolina farms.
Its a very broad spectrum, from the virtuous Vegan Supreme to the decadent Figjam, featuring homemade fig jelly, gorgonzola, mozzarella, prosciutto, shaved pecorino, rosemary, arugula and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. From comfort-food combinations like Shakin Bacon (with fontina, potatoes and sweet onions) to exotic Mexican Mole. From classic Margherita to the esoteric Sweet Bean, a medley of edamame, onion confit, three cheeses, mint and honey-lemon sauce.
Patrick Janes (the name is a mash-up of the owners middle names) also offers a modest selection of organic salads and tapas. Try the deep-fried smoked goat cheese balls with honey truffle oil if theyre available. You can pair them with one of two dozen or so (mostly Spanish and Italian) wines, or eight draft beers (all local).
For dessert, choose from a rotating assortment of Ngaire Hubbards homemade cookies, with options typically ranging from chocolate chip to gluten-free lavender shortbread. For my money, her Australian sandwich cookies, featuring Bourbon-vanilla buttercream and organic butter shortbread, take the prize.
No wonder Kevin Hubbard said yes.