Several weeks ago, I had some friends in town from Washington, DC. We were making plans to go out for dinner, and I was asked where we could get good pizza in the area. “There’s really not any great pizza in the Triangle,” I replied. That was before I knew about Bella Mia, which, with its ultra-hot coal-fired oven, has been hailed as the long-awaited arrival of “real” pizza in the Triangle. A recent visit confirmed this for me.
Upon entering the restaurant, I felt a little under-dressed in shorts and sneakers, but the space is nicely balanced between the casual and the upscale, save for perhaps the outdated dance music playing on the radio. The interior is sleek, with dark wood tables and an open kitchen. It’s a fine place for a nice date or for bringing a 2 ½ year old (as we did).
We ordered a margherita pizza ($9.50) and a “Canal St” calzone ($11), which was stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and sausage. I understand that good pizza is primarily about a good crust, and this crust was delightful, but it must be said that the toppings were what kept this pizza from being extraordinary. They were actually too sparse: there was a very limited amount of sauce, which was perfectly fine, but the mozzarella slices were alarmingly thin – borderline paltry – and there were only a few small basil leaves on the whole pie. Furthermore, there was a lot of vacant space between the toppings and the edge of the pie. As a result, all I could really taste was the crust. Flecked with char spots from the coal-fired oven, it did have a great flavor and texture. It was poofy on the edges and quite thin, but not crispy, in the middle.
The calzone, on the other hand, was phenomenal. The ricotta was creamy, the sausage was cut into nice big chunks, and it was stuffed to the edges in the same great crust as the pizza. Served with a judicious amount of tomato sauce, it was addictive – one of the best things I’ve eaten in the Triangle in quite a while. The one improvement that could have been made was the plating: the calzone was crudely cut into three large pieces, with a little tomato sauce strewn on the middle section.
The rest of the menu was tempting too. Bell Mia offers house-made pastas (the lasagna special almost won me over, but I was there, like many I suspect, to try the pizza), and I’ve heard good things about their lemon-rosemary roasted chicken wings, stuffed mushrooms, and nutella dessert pizza.
A note on ordering: the pizzas are about 12” in diameter, but, being thin and not overloaded with toppings, might leave you a bit hungry if split in half. Most people I observed were ordering individual pies. The calzone was decidedly more substantial and could probably serve two. But don’t worry about it too much: any leftovers are not going to go to waste.
In the end, like many other recent commenters, I’m thrilled to have Bella Mia in the Triangle. Now I know exactly where to go for good pizza.
Rating: * * * *