Downtown Raleigh's Pizza La Stella expanding to two new locations

A wood-fired oven cranks out blistered Neapolitan pizza as well as wings at Pizza La Stella.
A wood-fired oven cranks out blistered Neapolitan pizza as well as wings at Pizza La Stella.

Downtown Raleigh's Pizza La Stella restaurant will open a new location in Cary with a third location in North Raleigh not far behind.

The second Pizza La Stella will open in the former Hurricane Grill and Wings at 1389 Kildaire Farm Road, in the Trader Joe's shopping center in Cary.

With the move to Cary, the La Stella owners have closed La Stella Wood Fired, the Hillsborough Street spinoff that opened in the former H-Street Kitchen last fall. Its last service was Wednesday.

Pizza La Stella owner Rudy Theale said the new spot will open in the third quarter of this year — by mid-August.

"We're thrilled to become Cary's hometown pizza and wings spot, the place you go to after Little League games," Theale said.

The new Pizza La Stella will serve the same menu as its original Fayetteville Street spot, cooking Neapolitan-style pizzas in a wood-fire oven, along with wings, mac and cheese skillets and sandwiches. Everything in the restaurant is cooked in the wood-powered ovens.

La Stella Wood Fired opened in October in the former H-Street Kitchen as an extension of Pizza La Stella, serving sandwiches, game-day appetizers and meats cooked in a wood fired oven. H-Street Kitchen had opened in 2016 in the old Varsity Theater.

Theale said it struggled to catch on, citing the parking struggles on Hillsborough Street and a market driven largely by college students.

"It just didn't make money," Theale said. "At the end of the day we thought, why work this hard to break even. We thought the move to Cary was more in line with our vision. You need parking, you need families, rooftops. We found that in Cary."

Despite two restaurants closing in two years in the location, Theale believes the space can work and that a sports bar might be a good fit.

"The building is beautiful, there's nothing wrong with the building," Theale said. "If the price points are right for students, it's totally doable."

Hillsborough Street will always revolve somewhat around NC State, to the whims and tastes of students and faculty. The Players Retreat remains an often packed institution, but relative newcomer Gonza has caught on and a Smashed Waffles and future Taco Bell Cantina may be bellwethers to where Hillsborough Street is going.

Theale said one piece of information may help the next sit-down spot.

"It would be good for people to know they can park at NC State after 5 p.m.," Theale said.

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