Lilly’s Pizza (Raleigh, NC)

Lilly’s Pizza is a Raleigh institution, a place where loud rock music, yuppies, hipsters, and great pizza converge in a tiny restaurant in the city’s five points neighborhood.  Everything about the place is loud, from the conversation-limiting rock and roll, to the outlandish décor (including mannequins, wild paint, and backgammon-style table tops), to the waiters forced to yell your name when your pizza is ready, to the full-flavored pies that the scruffy-looking staff turns out.

The place is small and a line builds quickly in the evenings, making tables scarce and maneuvering room even more so.  After placing your order, you grab your own paper plates and utensils, but the place is not without its charms.  In warm weather, the tiny patio out front is a wonderful spot for dining and people watching.  And of course the pizzas themselves are superb.  Lilly’s focuses on natural and local ingredients.  Their thick crusts have a mysterious, subtle sweetness that is not unwelcome, and the range of toppings and specialty pizzas is extensive.  My personal favorite is the “Buddha” – spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, white cheddar, feta, and olives.  Lilly’s also offers a good range of salads, and you can purchase their pizza dough too.