Chef Ashley Christensen talks about bringing home the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in the country
After years of pizza testing and pizza tasting, Poole’side Pies is ready to open.
The latest restaurant from Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen opens Friday, Sept. 13, for dinner service, four months after her James Beard win for Outstanding Chef in the nation. Now we all get to celebrate with a brand new pizzeria.
Poole’side Pies takes its name from its geography, next door to Christensen’s flagship restaurant Poole’s Diner. The pizza shop is built around Neapolitan-inspired pizzas, cranked out of the restaurant’s beating heart, an 800-degree wood-fire oven, which cooks two-day fermented dough in about 90 seconds.
Like Poole’s, which reimagines the American diner, Poole’side is riffing on the familiar, aiming to tap into something new.
“Everyone has a connection to pizza,” said Kait Goalen, executive director for AC Restaurants. “It’s a backdrop-of-our-lives kind of food.”
To start, the new pizza shop will serve a limited menu. Christensen’s favorite is the Margherita, which Poole’side does in the classic way, with a sauce of crushed plum tomatoes and sea salt, house-pulled mozzarella, and finished with two-year aged parmesan, fresh basil and olive oil. Others pies include a five-cheese white pie, with chili and garlic; one with housemade fennel sausage, broccoli rabe and roasted peppers; and currently an heirloom tomato pizza, with the last bits of summer.
Goalen said the menu will nod next door to Poole’s with small bites of macaroni and three frittatine, a kind of Italian fritter, inspired by Christensen’s famous macaroni au gratin. There’s also chicken wings saltimbocca and a pickle juice Caesar salad.
“There are a lot of hat tips to Poole’s, which was the start of everything,” Goalen said.
Poole’side will open with dinner service and then add lunch and brunch in about two months, Goalen said.
As a trial by fire, Poole’side did its first soft opening during last weekend’s Hopscotch Music Festival, quickly selling out of pizzas Friday and Saturday.
Poole’side will be the only one of Christensen’s restaurants where she’s also the landlord, having purchased the building last year. The restaurant is designed after a swim club, and it’s okay to feel pangs of swim team pizza party nostalgia. While Poole’s is dark and intimate, Poole’side is bright and open, the pizza oven fully visible from the dining room, and a 50-foot skylight filling it all with natural light.
The drink menu was designed by AC Restauants beverage director Cappie Peete, with approachable pizza-loving wines and Italian cocktails like a Negroni and a lineup of spritzes.
Goalen said much of the restaurant’s menu testing went on at the company’s commissary kitchen Aux, where the dough recipe was perfected over four months of weekly tinkering. This is the first Christensen restaurant opening since 2015’s Death & Taxes. In addition to Poole’s Diner, she also owns Beasley’s Chicken & Honey, Chuck’s, Fox Liquor Bar and The Bridge Club event space, all in downtown Raleigh.
She has plans to open a fast-casual fried chicken chain in Durham, Raleigh and Cary.
The restaurant is at 428 S. McDowell St., Raleigh. For more information, visit ac-restaurants.com/pooleside.