Pizza Night

04 Aug 2021

Demand for Pies is booming in the Sandhills

By RAY LINVILLE  »  Photos by Brandon Williams

“It’s a pizza night” is the refrain heard almost daily in the Sandhills. Delivery, take home, or eat out? Where to go and what to order? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Making a decision even more difficult is that two Vito’s restaurants are exactly six miles apart, only 15 minutes by car. Regardless of where you are, a Vito’s is nearby. Old-timers remember it was even more challenging when another member of the Gironda family — the first family of pizza in the Sandhills — operated Raffaele’s on U.S. 1 that closed in 2013.

Since then, however, pizza restaurants here have more than quadrupled, and more are on the way.

A happy family enjoys pizza, and the Gironda family enjoys making it. When the pandemic caused Vito’s on N.C. 5 near the Aberdeen-Pinehurst border to close its inside dining area, no one gave up on their favorite pizzas. They were literally flying out the restaurant as take-out orders were booming.

“I’m beyond appreciative and thankful for Moore County. Last year was so tumultuous. The incredible support from the local community helped sustain us and kept the staff working,” said Mino Gironda, who since 2005 has managed the Aberdeen Vito’s, the location opened by his late father Giovanni in 1991.

The Vito’s in downtown Southern Pines is equally popular. It’s the best family restaurant in the Sandhills, according to you our readers who also voted it as having the best wine list (see the full list of “Best of the Best” in this issue).

Planning a birthday party for a youngster? Remember that kids love pizza. Bob’s Pizza on U.S. 1 in the Lakeview community of Vass has been a perennial favorite for birthday parties. Maybe having your name on the marquee board in front by the highway is also important. The large collection of antique toy cars and trucks and a large game room are as entertaining for grandparents as they are for kids.

Considered a “diamond in the rough” by many pizza eaters, Bob’s serves thin-crust pizza at very reasonable prices. Uncommon for many pizza places, at Bob’s the only beer available is root beer.

In contrast to the traditional style of Bob’s is that of Brixx, a 27-location chain, that opened in Southern Pines Village in 2014. It brings extraordinary flavors to wood-fired pizza such as sweet Thai chicken, rosemary chicken and mushroom, pear and gorgonzola, chicken Florentine, and spicy shrimp. Its Greek pizza features Roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and more.

Many communities have their favorite pizza hangouts. In the Seven Lakes area, Seven Lakes Pizza Kitchen and Mamma Mia’s Pizza and Pasta are popular.

In Robbins, don’t forget that the full name of Carolina Fried Chicken includes “and House of Pizza.” The meat lovers’ pizza is a top attraction, and the friendly staff keeps everyone happy.

In Pinebluff, Village Pizza is small, but the pizzas are good, although it’s open only for dinner hours.

In downtown Southern Pines, SoPies Pizza serves authentic hand-tossed New York pizza with creative toppings. The winner of this magazine’s contest for best pizza (see “Best of the Best”), SoPies uses its Old World recipes to make your dining experience memorable.

Whispering Pies Pizzeria near the airport was opened in 2018 by the former owner of SoPies. Offering New York style, it has 10 specialty pizzas in addition to the typical choices.

The name says it all for New York’s Finest that serves everyone in the Cameron area who craves New York style.

Pinehurst Pizza in the village harkens back to the 1950s with a retro jukebox and vintage red-and-white booths. Bring a party for one of the 24-inch pizzas.

Pizza Cafe in Olmstead Village has a supreme plus pizza with pepperoni, pork sausage, Italian sausage, and ground beef among the toppings. It’s every carnivore’s delight.

Other local restaurants that feature pasta, grinders, flatbreads, and other Italian menu options such as Valenti’s in Vass, Grinders and Gravy as well as Rudino’s in Southern Pines, and Lisi Italian in Pinehurst offer great pizza too.

Want takeout or delivery? The locals plus national chains such as Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Domino’s can satisfy your appetite.

Fortunately, local pizza places have returned to regular schedules after the pandemic had interrupted business operations. Another sign of a booming economy and hungry pizza eaters here is the news that two new pizza restaurants will open.

Aberdeen will soon boast its own wood-fired pizza in the historic business district. In the 121-year-old building where Mason’s Restaurant & Grocery is located, its owners will be opening Pizzeria Grazia next door in the late fall. If the food is as good as Mason’s, it’ll be a great addition to the local food scene.

Marco’s Pizza, a national chain based in Ohio, will be opening a franchise in the expanding commercial zone near the airport. In addition to traditional menu choices, the build-your-own options may be just what you want.

Some folks are already talking about the new arrivals. Even while Frances Kruitbosch of Whispering Pines was helping to install the stick-art design (see the Southern Drawl feature in this issue) in the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, she was spreading the word.

“Marco’s is coming. Just ask military families who know about it from other places. It’s awesome,” she said.

Even as demand for pizza is booming, old pizza places like Steve’s TK Pizza in Southern Pines are disappearing, just like Raffaele’s and Etalia (which had been P.zza before a fire destroyed the first location) did. Wait! Good news! Owner James Lam is bringing Steve’s pizza to The Block, his new restaurant on West Pennsylvania Ave.

With great interest, some local residents are awaiting the next plans of Uncle Axel’s Detroit-Style Pizza, whose service has been limited to delivery and pickup. Operating out of a ghost kitchen (known as Thyme and Place Café) in Southern Pines, it launched in late 2020 and hopes to be in a brick-and-mortar soon. The jalapeño popper-inspired square pie was recently a popular choice. Detroit style? The sauce goes on top of the toppings rather than underneath.

What if you want to make pizza at home? Learn from Dr. John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Community College, who shares this secret: “Broad Street Bakery has the best pizza dough by far.”

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