PIE TOWN OQ710 W. Trade St., 704/379-7555, www.dineatpietown.com
HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 A.M.-2 P.M. and 5-10 P.M., Fri. 11:30 A.M.-2 P.M. and 5-11 P.M., Sat. 5-11 P.M.
Pie Town is where foodies go for pizza. The pasta, panini, and pizzas (both red and white) are made with organic ingredients and baked with unusual (but tasty) toppings like pine nuts, caramelized garlic, free-range eggs, and octopus. The 12-grain crust is made to have a smoky taste and a creamy textureand despite the dark, almost-charred appearance, it’s not burned! There is no mistaking Pie Town for a run-of-the-mill pizza chain; the upscale clientele comes to hang out in the upscale pizzeria and sip microbrews, wine, and martinis while their pizzas are in the oven. The families that do stop in for a pie are toting designer diaper bags and driving luxe SUVs.
VILLA FRANCESCA OQ321 N. Caldwell St., 704/333-7447, www.villafrancescacharlotte.com
HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 11 A.M.-10 P.M., Fri.-Sat 11 A.M.-1 A.M., Sun. noon-10 P.M.
Given the number of Yankees in the South, it shouldn’t be hard to find New York-style pizza in the Queen Cityyet few pizzerias get it right. Villa Francesca is owned by New York transplant Luciano Suppa and serves up pies just like those found in the Big Apple, with the kind of slices that need to be folded before taking a bite. The most popular item on the menu at the familyowned restaurant is the authentic New York cheese pizza. Specialty pies like the eggplant, Carolina (fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil on a razor-thin crust), and gorgonzola salad pizzas are also worth a try. Other Italian favorites are also on the menuorder the spaghetti with meatballs just to marvel at the baseball-sized meatballs. The decor is pizzeria chic, with Old World frescoes painted on the walls, baskets from Chianti bottles hanging over the bar, and oversized brick pizza ovens dominating the open kitchen. The food and service are much better than the faux leather booths and plastic plants would suggestjust ask the families who have added the restaurant to their list of favorite places to take the kids for a slice.
SOUTHERN MERT’S HEART AND SOUL 0© 214 N. College St., 704/342-4222, www.mertscharlotte.com
HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 11 A.M.-9 P.M., Fri. 11 A.M.-11 P.M., Sat. 9 A.M.-11 P.M., Sun. 9 A.M.-9 P.M.
Owner and chef James Bazzelle is a Georgia native with a passion for Southern food. He moved to Charlotte in 1991 and opened a catering company, GA Catering, followed by a restaurant called GA on Tryon, also in Uptown. One of his earliest supporters was Hugh McColl, the chairman and CEO of Bank of America, who helped Bazzelle expand the restaurant to its current space. The new location a nondescript storefront in Uptown filled with chalkboard menus and diner tablesinspired a new name. Bazzelle chose the name in honor of Mertle Lockhart, his most loyal customer at GA on Tryon, who passed away before the 1998 grand opening; the restaurant was dedicated to her memory. Mert’s serves up traditional Gullah (African-inspired Southern dishes) and Low Country cuisine. The mac-and-cheese is award-winning; the shrimp and grits also get rave reviews from the Uptown crowd that frequents the restaurant.