PIZZA, PIZZA: WILMINGTON'S 7 BEST SLICES

Updated: 7 days ago

We’re turning up the heat in October and showcasing the 7 Best Pizza's in Wilmington, NC and surrounding areas. We're paying tribute all month long to one of America’s best loved foods. Keep it simple with a Margherita, or seek out one of the extraordinary combinations from Benny's Big Time, WilmyWoodie, Brooklyn Pizza Co, Jay's Incredible Pizza, Za Pie, Slice of Life, and Michelangelos.


BENNY'S BIG TIME PIZZERIA

Q&A with Owner, Ben Knight


Benny's Big Time Pizzeria is what the name suggests - big, fun, tasty, and Italian. Owner, Ben Knight, grew up eating Italian in a local family-owned restaurant weekly, and even when the family wasn't eating out, "it always seemed like there was spaghetti on the table!" Benny's captures the nostalgic Italian American family night and gives it a little update. "It's the perfect place to bring the family and share a meal. And perhaps some drinks without your family. Italian food makes people happy. Benny's Big Time takes happiness to the next level," says Knight.


What is Benny's showcase Pizza?


We serve classic Neapolitan pizza made in wood-fired 900-degree Mario Acunto ovens. It's characterized by a thin, elastic, lightly crisp, charred crust and fresh ingredients. Our most popular pizza is the Kevin McCalister, a ricotta-based pizza with fresh mozzarella and taleggio cheese and finished with our flagship hot honey.


What are the 3 critical elements of a great pizza?


The first and most important element of great pizza is excellent ingredients. We tasted almost every tomato available and created our sauce with a unique blend of pear and plum tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and garlic. Our mozzarella is made fresh in Charlotte from an artisan cheese maker - Siano. Our dough is made by hand daily, proofed for 48 hours before it is stretched per order also by hand. We use only 00 Italian imported flour, which has an entirely different protein content from American wheat. This is key. The second important aspect of making a great pizza is having a great pizza master control the heat in a wood oven. When cooking at high temperatures, pizzas can burn quickly or not cook properly if the oven is too cool. Having an experienced cook is vital to making a great pizza. The last is having fun. Pizza makes people happy, and guests can taste the difference if your team isn't having fun.


What's happening at Benny's for Pizza Month?


Benny's is launching 2 new types of pizzas this fall - a sheet pan style of pizza known as the Grandma - like a focaccia-based pizza or a Sicilian style, but thinner and dressed like a classic Margherita - fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil. We are also testing our NY-style pizzas for serving slices late at night - stay tuned.


WILMYWOODIE PIZZA TRUCK

Q&A with Co-Owner Erin Langston


Owner Kevin Langston worked in the restaurant industry for years before starting the food truck with his spouse, Erin Langston. The Langston's always wanted to have their own pizza restaurant and after many discussions, decided a food truck was the best fit because it provided the flexibility needed to balance work with family life. "While we love all types of pizza, we always felt wood-fired pizza was the best, so we opted to build our truck with a wood fire oven," says Co-Owner Erin Langston. "We had the idea to hang the oven off the back of the truck to give us a one-of-a-kind design but also so people could see the beautiful hand-laid tile on our oven while they waited for their food."


What is Wilmy Wood's showcase Pizza?


The Honey Blue Bleu is one of our many fan favorites. It's a pizza that sounds a bit strange, but it's absolutely delicious. It includes Muenster cheese, hand-breaded fried chicken breast, blue cheese, blueberries, and our housemade hot honey.


What are the 3 critical elements of a great pizza?

  • The crust needs to be a little crispy while still a little soft on the inside. Our crust is always finished off, so it's like a delicious breadstick at the end of your pizza slice.

  • The sauce - We use high-quality tomatoes and cook our sauce with fresh herbs and spices to give it a hint of sweetness to counter the acidity of the tomatoes.

  • The cheese - You can't skimp on the cheese! We choose to use high-quality mozzarella with a touch of buffalo milk. That combination helps to keep things cheesy without being chewy.

What's happening at Wilmy Wood's for Pizza Month?


Our menu rotates all the time, but for the fall, we will be bringing back some of our favorite fall flavors like our dessert pumpkin pizza and our very popular Pimento pizza.



JAY'S INCREDIBLE PIZZA

Q&A with Co-Owner Tom Hayes


Jay's Incredible Pizza started when two friends working together for 7 years saw an opportunity in the Wilmington pizza market. Tom Hayes, a full-time real estate investor, and Jay Askew, a lifelong "pizza guy," came together to start Jay's Incredible Pizza. Originally just Incredible Pizza, the restaurant has had a couple of different owners in its' lifetime and was purchased by Hayes and Askew in October 2021. "In our first year, they have grown the business from four to 12 employees and a full-time restaurant open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner," says Hayes. "The menu is a mix of Incredible favorites and new pizza creations every 2 weeks. And we are the only pizza place in town to make Chicago-style pizza."


What is Jay's showcase Pizza?


The Incredible Pizza. "We call it The Kitchen Sink," says Hayes. "It has a bottom layer of cheese topped with pepperoni, salami, ham, mushrooms, green and red peppers, yellow and red onions, tomatoes, garlic, sausage, and topped with more mozzarella cheese.


What are the 3 critical elements of a great pizza?


a. A great dough.

b. Fresh ingredients.

c. Proper cooking methods. In our case, two stone ovens.


What's happening at Jay's Incredible Pizza for Pizza Month?


We are planning on a Halloween special, an open house and sampling combination. Our first day open was Halloween 2021, so it should be a fun night.


ZA PIE PIZZERIA

Q&A with Owner John Moyer


Za Pie Pizzeria was created out of John Moyer's genuine love for the art of making awe-inspiring, melt-in-your-mouth pizza. "I started working in pizza more than 25 years ago. At one point, I owned and managed eight Michaelangelo locations. Eventually, I sold all but one, the Michaelangleos located at Monkey Junction, before opening Za Pie Pizzeria.

"During the pandemic, the way people dined changed drastically and permanently. That heavily influenced the creation of my latest endeavor," says Moyer. "People wanted a good, fresh, homemade Pizza that they could either have delivered or pick up to enjoy in their own homes. Having a large, eat-in establishment wasn't as important anymore. Za (meaning pizza) stands apart from others due to our secret dough recipe and the commitment to sourcing only the highest quality and freshest ingredients. My family and team spent months selecting ingredients, testing recipes, and training before officially opening in March this year," says Moyer.

Moyer bought the property and building just before the entrance to Beau Rivage on Carolina Beach Road at the beginning of 2020 and expanded it to 1,600 square feet. There is a small outdoor, covered seating area with a large TV so you can relax while you wait for your carryout or sit and enjoy your pie.


What is the Za Pie showcase Pizza?


Our menu has over 15 specialty pizzas and our 'special of the month' pizza. Naming the special each month is quite the task because my team is highly passionate about pizza, and they have so many great ideas they want to try out. I have to say, though, our most popular special of all time has been the La'Zagna Pie. We start with our secret dough recipe and a marinara sauce base topped with beef and sausage plus ricotta, romano, and mozzarella cheeses and then seasoned perfectly with black pepper, basil, and parsley. It's so, so good! We have lots of repeat orders and requests for that one.


What are the 3 critical elements of a great pizza?


High-quality ingredients, fresh dough, and just the right amount of seasoning.


What's happening at Za Pie Pizzeria for Pizza Month?


I can't share October's special pie just yet, but I promise it will be worth the wait. It's something we haven't done yet as a special. We'll announce it on Facebook as soon as we finalize it. We get so many great reviews for our pizzas. You've got to try one for yourself! And don't be scared to come up with your own creation. We love putting together unique combinations and hearing later how good it was.



BROOKLYN PIZZA CO.

Q&A with Owner Brad Sywolski


Our recipes and products originate in Brooklyn, New York, so high-quality ingredients are the foundation of our menu,” says Owner Brad Sywolski. “Then, the skilled hands of Brooklyn Pizza Co. employees transform those classic ingredients into the delicious menu items our customers have known and enjoyed for nearly three decades.

Sywolski had been a customer of Brooklyn Pizza ever since moving to Wilmington from New York in 2001. “For years, my family enjoyed Brooklyn Pizza at least weekly, usually on Sunday afternoons or Friday nights. Eventually, I became a part of the Brooklyn Pizza Co. family culture before I started at the restaurant several years later. Simply put-it is and always will be my favorite slice,” says Sywolski.


What is Brooklyn's showcase Pizza?


After asking the staff, they feel our “showcase pizza” would be our Fresh Mozzarella Pie. That pie is made with mozzarella (made in-house), topped with our seasoned plum tomato sauce with fresh basil and garlic, and then cooked to perfection. Like all of our Signature and BYO (Build Your Own) Pies, it is Brooklyn-style thin crust, of course.


What are the 3 critical elements of a great pizza?


Dough, Sauce, Cheese


The recipe for the dough is simple, flour, water, oil, salt, and yeast. Yet several variables affect the end product, such as how large a bowl is being mixed, the water’s temperature, and how fresh and active the yeast is, just to name a few. Skilled hands are required to roll that dough into individual weighed-out balls, which are then proofed for approximately 24 hours. From there, the pizza maker hand stretches each and every pie. To the pizza maker, the dough is their canvas. They have a very high standard for how the dough must feel when stretched, as with any finely hand-crafted product. It takes years to be able to read the dough by touch.


We depend on Pomodoro tomatoes at Brooklyn Pizza Co. for our sauce. Those tomatoes provide the balanced sweetness that plays well with our chosen mozzarella. In addition, our Pomodoro whole peeled deseeded tomatoes are blended with spices and a few other secret things.


We use buffalo milk mozzarella. This is a pricier choice, but it makes all the difference. It has an ultimate creaminess and a slight salt note on the back end that is a perfect pairing with our signature sauce.


What's happening at Brooklyn Pizzeria for Pizza Month?


We have a saying here…Every day is National Pizza DAY! Following that logic, every month is National Pizza month! We will continue to serve our favorite pizza to our customers with that same great Brooklyn-style familiarity!



SLICE OF LIFE

Q&A with Owner Ray Worrell


Owner Ray Worell, originally from New Jersey, moved to Wilmington, NC, in 1989 to attend school at UNCW. After working in the restaurant business for several years, he worked at Slice of Life for the owner, Ian Mosely, before buying the company 3 years later in 2001. "We now have 4 locations of Slice of Life: Downtown, Wrightsville Beach, Pine Valley, and Porters Neck. When I tell my friends in New Jersey that I have 4 pizza places in Wilmington, they think I'm crazy. But each location has a dedicated clientele."


What is Slice of Life's showcase Pizza?


That would probably be our White Pizza: It starts with our signature crust, garlic, and olive oil. Then, we top it with fresh ricotta cheese, sliced tomatoes, and basil and add grated parmesan and mozzarella.


What are the 3 critical elements of a great pizza?


Honestly, I think there's only one, and that would be the crust. When I started, I had a friend, Chris Hendricks, a recent culinary school graduate in Oregon, to help us develop a dough recipe. We spent two months refining it. We switched out regular salt for kosher and olive oil and even purified the water. Now we use reverse osmosis to purify the water and replace all the minerals that the process strips. Our New York-style thin crust is a signature style of Slice of Life.


What's happening at Slice of Life for Pizza Month?


It's Football season, so we are very focused on that for October. We have all 9 games on at the same time on our big screens across all locations, so it's a big draw for our customers. They can come in, enjoy a pizza and drink and take in the game. It's the perfect combo.



MICHAELANGELO'S PIZZERIA

Q&A with Owner John Moyer


John Moyer opened the Michaelangelo's at Monkey Junction in 1994. At one point, he owned and operated eight Michaelanglo locations but eventually sold all but this one. Though much of the Home Depot shopping center has changed, Michaelangelos has continued to thrive in this busy location.

"It's the perfect location in this shopping center at the intersection of Carolina Beach Road and College Road," says Moyer. "We are open for lunch, so you can stop in and grab a slice. Then, with a seating area and a quick-moving line, you can be in and out in no time. And then, on the weekends, we are open until 10 pm, so you can enjoy a late-night snack on the way home from the beach or order delivery."


What is Michaelangelo's showcase Pizza?


We specialize in authentic New York-style pizzas, but our most notable pizza is probably The Godfather. It’s a 24” and wildly popular for school events, large gatherings, and children’s birthday parties. We have some customers that order it every year with their child as a tradition on their birthday. It is massive, so it causes quite a commotion and it's so good.


What are the 3 critical elements of a great pizza?


Fresh toppings, sourced produce from local farms, and an experienced team that knows how to work the dough and prep the toppings.