The owner of Pizza La Stella said they plan to open Friday in downtown Raleigh’s former Bolt Bistro.
The casual Neopolitan pizza place is moving into a prime-but-troubled location on downtown Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street.
In 2008, the city spent $1 million to renovate its ground-floor property at One Exchange Plaza and lured a fine-dining restaurant to occupy the space in an effort to bring people downtown. The Mint, a white-tablecloth restaurant serving a molecular gastronomy-inflected menu, lasted four years before closing; some blaming its expensive menu.
Next came Bolt Bistro, which lasted another four years before shutting down. Bolt’s owner David Sadeghi, who also owns Town Hall Burger and Beer in Chapel Hill and Durham, said the restaurant’s atmosphere was too formal to attract walk-in customers. Sadeghi and entrepreneur Rudy Theale became partners to convert Bolt into Pizza La Stella with hopes of attracting more casual customers and fans of Neopolitian pizza.
The 6,000-square-foot restaurant will offer takeout and full service with seating for 100 inside, 50 in the upstairs bar called The Loft at Stella and another 60 outside when the weather permits. The interior has been refurbished with barn wood, wooden beams and casual banquettes.
Theale is focusing on the Neopolitan pizza made in two almost 7,000-pound wood-fired ovens.
Everything on the menu except the salads is cooked in those ovens. That includes the antipasti (roasted artichokes with pistachio pesto, fire-roasted Brussels sprouts and gluten-free meatballs, prices range from about $7-$10); wings (House wings with charred, caramelized onion garnish, Hot with honey and Calabrian peppers and Old Fashioned with apple cider bourbon, cinnamon and charred orange; prices around $14); as well as strombolis and calzones
And, of course, the pizzas, which are available with red sauce, white sauce, specialty pizzas (an Italian take on the ham-and-pineapple pizza looks intriguing) and build your own. Prices are about $14-$19. For the downtown lunch crowd, Theale said they will offer a lunch special with either wings, 10-inch pizza, salad, meatballs or calzone and a drink for $9.99.
The menu also includes desserts, like gelato and a Bourbon Caramel S’mores for $9 with Videri chocolate, melted marshmallow and graham crackle crumble, which is large enough to share looks promising.
The bar will serve a 18 draft beers, mainly from local breweries, including Trophy Brewing Co., Neuse River Brewing Co. and Crank Arm Brewing, as well as another two dozen beers in cans or bottles. Craft cocktails will be featured upstairs in The Loft, a steam-punk-meets-granny’s-living-room space that is far from a stuffy cocktail bar.
If anyone sees the space’s troubled past as an asset, it is Theale, a technology entrepreneur turned restaurateur who is a partner in three pizza restaurants in Jacksonville, Fla. Theale only sees the upside: if people are familiar with the space’s history, at least they know the location.
On Tuesday, Theale said, “Adversity doesn’t scare me. Sometimes I fail miserably. Most of the time I get through it.”
In a 2001 article in Florida Trend, a business magazine, writer John Finotti mentioned Theale in an article about the then struggling business ventures of Teddy Turner, the eldest son of media mogul and businessman Ted Turner. Finotti wrote: “Turner hooked up with Rudy Theale Jr., a sales and marketing whiz who had started and sold several businesses by the time he was 24. In 1997, they created LocalNet Communications to sell set-top internet boxes and telecommunications services through a multi-level marketing operation. Before long, however, LocalNet also ran into trouble. Distributors who’d signed up to sell the service complained when the company didn’t refund their money when the service failed to materialize.” Theale and Turner’s business ended up being acquired by another company.
Theale said he later began investing in restaurants, first in California and then Florida. Theale explained what he likes about the restaurant business versus technology industry: it takes six months to fix something with a tech product but he can fix something at a restaurant instantly.
Theale said he is hopeful that if he and his employees work hard to create an inviting restaurant serving great food that Raleigh folks will be even more supportive given the location’s past.
Theale said: “If they see us making a huge effort and we knock it out the park, they will forget that.”
Pizza La Stella is at 219 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, 984-200-2441, pizzalastella.com; Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-midnight Wednesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.