• EatingNC

I’ve been eating pizza wrong for my whole, entire life – until now.

(Or until last Saturday, to be exact.)

Inizio Pizzeria contacted our us asking us to try out their Winter seasonal pizza – the Toscana. Naturally, our response to their invitation to try anything “seasonal” was a resounding, YES!

We planned our trip to Charlotte several weeks in advance by inviting a bunch of our friends to join us for some pizza and an enjoyable night out in the Queen City. (This is where things start going right!)

Saturday morning, we schlepped our friend, Taylor, into our backseat and made the drive from Greensboro, and after stopping for coffee and stopping to do "coffee stuff", we met up with our friends, (Meredith, Evan, Gabby, Rich and Marisa,) for lunch.

As you open the doors, your eyes are drawn to their two massive pizza ovens in the back. They’re exhaling smells of roasted tomatoes, bubbling cheese, and freshly toasted and chewy pizza crusts.

How to do Pizza “The Right Way”

Each couple agreed to order a different pizza. After careful consideration while in line reading over the menu, we ordered five pizzas for us to taste test! When they all arrived, everyone picked off slices from each of the pies and our tasting ensued.

First – the Toscana Seasonal Pizze

Talk about a savory white pizza! White Pizza is my favorite style, but Inizio takes this to the next level. Instead of just starting with a layer of cheese, they smear a creamy and garlicky vegetable sauce down and top it with diced potato, sausage, kale, and buffalo mozzarella. Their crust, (used for each pie,) is thin and perfectly toasted on the edges. Although I personally prefer a firmer crust, I also appreciate a good slice where the crust is so thin and the toppings are so plentiful that the whole thing feels like it will fall apart, (if you don’t shove it in your mouth fast enough.) What a creative winter seasonal treat!

Second – the Giardino (White) Pizze

This is the pizza that Justin and I chose to get. The Giardino will not let you down. Topped with mushrooms, broccoli rabe, garlic, pomodrini cherry tomatoes, and buffalo mozz – this pizza has the perfect bite every time. There is a special place in my heart for pizza with mushrooms, and each bite has the perfect mushroom to cheese ratio… a little salty, a little earthy, a little “wow” each time… (so I would definitely order this again and again!)

Third – the Diavola Pizze (Traditional with Red Sauce)

What is there not to love about a pepperoni pizza? Well if it’s got fresh thinly cut salami and peppers, how could you not love it even more? The Diavola looks like your traditional pepperoni with San Marzano red sauce, but is packed with so much more flavor. The spices in the salami and the salty pecorino sprinkled on top bring this over the top.

Fourth – the Pistacchio (White) Pizze

Think of a pesto pizza, and add pistachios and some rosemary for a little extra punch. This was the best pesto pizza I have ever eaten, and my favorite out of the five we tasted. The pesto’s salty and sweet flavors were so well balanced, and the extra crunchy texture from the nuts is so satisfying. Of course, it was also topped with buffalo mozz, some extra garlic, and sea salt for added perfection.

Fifth – the Margherita Pizze (Traditional with Red Sauce)

After stuffing our faces with all of the above pizzas, Justin insisted that we didn’t order enough, because… how could we possibly judge a pizza place with good merit, without trying their margherita? So we ordered one. I don’t know how to describe this pizza, (or how we managed to eat any more,) other than by: “melted cheesey goodness.” We’re also suckers for some fresh basil on a pizza, and add it to our own pizzas at home all of the time. How could this be a true contender of great pizza places without any? With fresh basil strips, garlic, pecorino, buffalo mozz, and their foundational San Marzano sauce – this pizza confirmed our original findings that this was must-see, (or must-eat-at,) in Charlotte.

Sixth – Dolci (Dessert, of course!)

Without haste, and despite how ridiculously full I was, I decided I must try and share a cannoli and gelato. This wasn’t just any cannoli though, (and I tend to be particular about cannolis since I grew up in Rochester, New York.) This was an Apple Pie cannoli – their seasonal special – with a shell that was stuffed full of freshly squeezed ricotta filling and drizzled with caramel sauce. Of course, that’s not enough, so Inizio sprinkles apple crumb cake on top with some powdered sugar. Paired with some creamy, chocolate hazelnut gelato, I was in Italian American heaven.

Inizio Pizza Napoletana is definitely an establishment that you need to go to – ASAP. Sit in with a glass of wine or can of beer, or take out and chow down in your pajamas at home, (as a couple of Northern pizza snobs,) we confirm that you need to check this place out!


Visit: Inizio Pizza Napoletana

Addresses: Providence Commons (10620 Providence Rd, Charlotte, NC 28277) or Dilworth (2230 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28203)

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11AM-9:30PM; Friday-Saturday 11AM-10:30PM (“or until the dough runs out”)

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  • EatingNC

I woke up to the sun peeking through the blinds in our bottom floor bedroom. It was our third morning at Kure Beach. As my feet landed on the cool (and partially sand-covered) tile floor, I heard the shower kick-on from our side of the Jack-and-Jill bathroom shared with my brother.

“Damn-it” I muttered, needing to use the bathroom. I walked half-way up the stairs to the main floor listening to my niece scamper from one end to the other, and my nephew loudly proclaiming that he only wanted to watch PJMasks, a children’s show about crime fighting kids dressed in their pajamas. I decided it would be best to wait it out in bed. It was a family trip with my wife, Chelsea, my sister, her husband and kids, brother, mom and her boyfriend. Chaotic, loud, but one that cannot be beat.  

We sat down for breakfast to enjoy eggs, bacon, fruit, and a concoction of crabmeat, breakfast sausage black-beans, and squash, dubbed a “Southwestern crab cake”. We had the news on in the background, and as with most stations, Hurricane Florence dominated the conversation. Our plan was to take a break from the beach in the morning, and take the kids to the Battleship in Wilmington. Quickly we realized we would be forced to leave, with a mandatory evacuation issued for later that day.

We packed our belongings, said goodbye, and took one more look at a place that would be in our thoughts as the storm quickly approached. So many families have made the coastal towns of North Carolina a place of reprieve from work, and other stressors of daily life. Some children learn to swim, or take in their first sunburn, only to cool off with a cold cone of ice cream at Squigley's. Most importantly, it is a place where families from all over the county make memories. We wished our temporary home safety, and to all those who may be impact before heading back to Greensboro.

After several hours of cruising down Highway 421 to avoid I-40 traffic, my stomach growls, and I realize we need to stop for lunch. We have taken Highway 421 many times to, and from the coast, but rarely stop for a bite to eat… But we were staving. We landed up pulling into the Town of Lillington, just past Campbell University, and parked in the downtown stretch on Front Street.

We walked into County Seat Sports Grille, and were greeted by an empty hostess stand with a sign that read “Please, Seat Yourself”. We found a booth, and I was almost ready to drown my vacation ended-early sorrows with the daily drink special of $2.00 well drinks.

“Better not” I said to Chelsea as we looked over the menu. We were cheerfully greeted with water, and quickly placed our orders. I ordered the Fried Shrimp Po-boy, served on a soft-toasted baguette, and piled high with crispy jumbo shrimp over lettuce, tomato, and drizzled with their spicy County Seat Sauce (Remoulade). It’s always a good sign when you have to eat a little bit, before you’re even able to fit a Po-boy in your mouth!

Chelsea ordered a classic French Dip sandwich made with sirloin steak, Swiss cheese, on a soft-toasted baguette, and served with an Au Jus made from steak drippings. Chelsea did not have much to say while eating, which usually means the food is too good to spoil with conversation… She inhaled her lunch, paid our tab, and headed back out on Highway 421 home bound.

County Seat offered the comfort food, and casual atmosphere needed after a hectic drive inland. After the storm passes, and we are once again able to return to the beautiful Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, or others, leave some time to enjoy some house-made potato chips, crispy wings, burgers, steaks or a simple sandwich at County Seat Sports Grille in Lillington, NC.

Visit: County Seat Sports Grille Address: 6677, 1 W Front St, Lillington, NC 27546 Hours: Sunday 11:30-10PM; Monday 11AM-10PM; Tuesday-Thursday 11AM-12AM; Friday & Saturday 11AM-2AM

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  • EatingNC

Over Labor Day weekend, we took a drive a few hours west to Lake Norman to visit Justin's sister for her birthday. Typically, everyone would participate in any boating festivities out on the lake, but my allergies have been particularly agonizing from all of the rain, so I decided to stay in.  Justin and the in-law family wished me well, and took off sailing in the pontoon.

Soon after everyone voyaged out, I realized I had not eaten much of a breakfast before we left. And then I realized I was hungry. (Let's face it, I'm always hungry.) But where do I go by myself to eat on a Sunday afternoon? Especially in Sherrils Ford?

Yelp quickly affirmed to me there were no places to grab a bite to eat in Sherrils Ford, so I started looking elsewhere. I just as quickly came across a name of a familiar restaurant, "Hello, Sailor!" in Cornelius. 30 minutes away? The family had just left, so I thought: "Might as well!" 

This hip new establishment was featured in the most recent Our State Magazine, where I had originally read about it. The short drive over was totally worth it, (not to mention that Chef Craig Deihl was nominated twice for a James Beard Award!) In a gravel alcove behind the Fresh Market shopping center, I walked in and found a seat at the indoor 60’s bar. This is not just any bar, but a beautifully outfitted, retro, tropical bar!

Think “Mad Men” style - the episodes when Don & Megan travel to Hawaii, without the flower lei’s! I scanned over the menu and decided to order my new favorite - an Aperol Spritz, with Cava bubbles and a curling bendy straw! It was so hot… I deserved it! And I felt just like a kid again, only with an adult beverage.

Once I scanned over the menu fifty times, (because everything looked delicious and I couldn’t quite decide on what to get,) I ordered the mussels and watermelon. These weren’t just any mussels and watermelon though, they were divine... Maybe it was the decor, maybe it was the heat, but I could not get enough of this place. Everything looked so cute.

My mouth was watering when they brought my plates out. I decided that despite my allergies, I must go outside to the tiki bar and see the view. The lake looked perfect for boating, (too bad I didn't go!) But my seat at the bar was priceless with the sun shining and crepe myrtles blooming on the side of the deck.

The waitress kindly followed me out to a seat at the bar, (okay, maybe now I could have used a flower lei…) and I started in on the mussels. The Prince Edward Island Mussels came out in a steamy, tomato-ey broth, served with two long cut crisped baguettes and sprinkled with fresh herbs. The watermelon side was grilled to perfection with a spicy touch - peppered with cloves, cumin, and freshly ground sea salt, “al pastor” style! Cue drool. I somehow found the strength to withhold from devouring everything and asked for a to-go box to share my scraps with Justin.

But never will I ever forget this watermelon. Actually, I’m planning on attempting this at home. Now I’ll just need to go buy a big fresh one at the store, get the grill going, mix a spice blend… and maybe grab some flower lei's…

Visit: Hello, Sailor Address: 20210 Henderson Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031 Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11AM-10PM; (Monday Closed)

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