photograph by Baxter Miller

Featured Above: Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria

Kinston-based food TV star Vivian Howard never does anything halfway. Her homage to an American-style pizza joint, in a converted factory building, still has plenty of Italian touches, like buffalo mozzarella, along with their own version of the hot honey trend: honey spiced with Calabrian peppers to drizzle on your crust.

206 Greenfield Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 550-2525

All Souls Pizza

In a town that already takes bread seriously, All Souls sets a high bar. In a tiny building that used to be a diner, they grind their own flour, creating a whole-wheat crust with an emphatic chewiness.

175 Clingman Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 254-0169

Inizio Pizza Napoletana

Owner Grant Arons is a stickler for details: He brought his ovens (and even his water) from Naples. Here, pizzas are divided into two camps: red sauce and no red sauce. Either way, expect lots of speckles and char on the crust, chewy edges, and a soft center.

2230 Park Road, Suite 101
Charlotte, NC 28203
(704) 900-0929

10620 Providence Road
Charlotte, NC 28277
(704) 846-8909

Pizzeria Mercato

Gabe Barker, son of Durham restaurant legends Ben and Karen Barker, has set up shop near the Carrboro Farmers Market to make the most of the seasonal ingredients around him. His margherita crust is thinner and crispier than some, and his toppings are adventurous (think mustard greens). There’s an anchovy version, too, for those who crave the salty bits.

408 West Weaver Street
Carrboro, NC 27510
(919) 967-2277

Pizzeria Toro

The menu is as pared down as the ingredients, with minimalist descriptions — “cremini mushrooms, garlic, fior di latte” — but the simple language belies the complex flavors coaxed out of local ingredients. The antipasti, like the ricotta dumplings with pancetta and pecans, are well worth sampling, too.

105 East Chapel Hill Street
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 908-6936

Looking for more delicious pizzerias? Read about Mission Pizza, a restaurant bringing a taste of Naples to Winston-Salem.

This story was published on

Purvis is the food editor for The Charlotte Observer. She is the author of two Savor the South Cookbooks: Pecans and Bourbon. Purvis has been cookbook awards chair for the James Beard Awards since 2000.