Coal-Fired Pizza Finally Here

I love pizza, and even mediocre pizza is pretty damn good.  But great pizza is so hard to find — the Triangle has not had a great pizza place.  And when I say “great”, I mean the pizza is hauntingly memorable, where you can’t get the taste out of your head.  I’ve had great pizza in New York, New Haven and Phoenix.  This pizza is all about the crust, with a slight char, where the toppings almost melt into oblivion.  Moreover, these pizzas (or pizze) are inevitably cooked in super-hot ovens, typically 900 degrees or more and fired with coal.  Most pizza joints have gas-fueled pizza ovens, which can get up to 500 degrees or so, but still far cooler than what’s needed.  Wood-fired ovens get a bit hotter, but not quite enough.  Coal is where it’s at.  And we now have a coal-fired pizza oven in the Triangle.  In Cary, of all places.  And very close to my home.

This place is Bella Mia, in the Arboretum at the corner of Weston Parkway and Harrison Avenue.  The place is owned by Rick Guerra, a New Yorker if there ever was one.   Guerra is friendly and passionate about what he does.  His sons man the two ovens that are fueled initially with oak, and then hard coal to bring up the heat.  The flour is imported “00” grade.  The tomatoes, San Marzano.  The mozzarella, from water buffaloes.  This place doesn’t put second rate ingredients on its pies, and damn, the crust is so good.

We’re talking fairly thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizza here.  And as I said above, it’s all about the crust — perfectly charred, with just the right amount of texture and salt (and not even the slightest bit of sweetness, thank you very much).  I’d prefer it just slightly thinner, but I’m not complaining.  This is the real deal, folks, and I suspect Bella Mia will soon have lines snaking out the door, as NO ONE in the Triangle has a pizza this good.  Just order the Margherita and enjoy.  I just finished an hour ago, and I’m already wanting to get back.

Bella Mia
2015 Renaissance Park Place (in the Arboretum off Westin Pkwy)
Cary, NC


22 Responses to Coal-Fired Pizza Finally Here

  1. Lisa -- says:

    My husband and I went last week and we adored it. I gave it my best honorific … “Jersey worthy”. We also tried the meatball starter and it was heavenly. The gentleman who helped Rick design his restaurant is a well-known pizza chef from Naples called Roberto Caporuscio.

    It’s a fabulous addition to the the Triangle and we’re lucky to have it.

  2. Lisa -- says:

    P.S. Try the pizza with the arugula and proscuitto (which are put on after the pizza is fired). It’s one one of Roberto’s signature pizzas and it is my all time favorite. I can’t believe I can get it in the Triangle now!

  3. dmwcpa says:

    I am confused. Is it really coal? Coal mined from the hills of West Virginia? Is it hardwood charcoal?

    I may have to retrieve my great grandmothers coal burning stove from the canning house and fix it up sooner than I had planned on.

  4. Varmint says:

    Yes, it’s really coal. The fire in the ovens are primarily fueled with oak, but then they shovel in the coal (probably anthracite) from Pennsylvania into the ovens to get the fire blazing. This two-pronged approach also adds flavor to the pizze.

    I just might have to go back today. It was that good.

  5. dmwcpa says:


  6. Shelly says:

    I had dinner at Bella Mia last night, and I was super satisfied. After working for Tandy Wilson at City House in Nashville, moving to the Triangle left me yearning for great pizza. Thank you, Bella Mia for satisfying my love and longing for a damn good pie!

  7. Ben says:

    Thanks for the heads up on this place; I look forward to trying it out.

  8. MB says:

    Run don’t walk to get there. My mission now is to eat my way through the menu.

  9. VP says:

    We went there two weeks ago shortly after their opening. The pizza was fantastic. The previous week, we were in Brooklyn and went to Grimaldi’s. I have to say Bella Mia was better.

  10. Michael says:

    AMAZING!! Just had 4 pies to go and will be going back for dinner next weekend. You can now get real pizza in Raleigh!!! Thanks so much!

  11. burgeoningfoodie says:

    Had dinner here the other night. Take out margherita with mushrooms. I like what they are trying to do but the crust needs more work (too flimsy) and the end crust was super tough. They do use fresh herbs and it is coal fired.

  12. James says:

    I’m with burgeoningfoodie. The toppings were fresh and better than most places, and the crust had a good flavor, but it wasn’t right, and not remotely close to the elite places in NY. The bottom was too charred, the crust completely flimsy and tough. I don’t mind a little char, but the crust should have some crunch to it, and there was none. You couldn’t pick up a slice at all – everything slide off as the crust just sagged. I’ll give them another try in a month or two based on the quality of their toppings, but given the hype here, I was pretty disappointed.

  13. Varmint says:

    Regarding the take out, this type of pizza is best eaten right away — the sooner out of the oven, the better. That’s the case with any top place in the world. The crust gets hard pretty quickly.

    The crust is not supposed to be substantial, but I will say that they’ve started to get a bit heavier with their toppings, which could lead to the problems you’ve had. What constitutes “too charred” is a matter of personal preference, too. If you go to any of the top NYC places, they have different levels of crust charring — not only from place to place, but from pie to pie. I often ask for a bit extra char, but I haven’t had to do that with this pizza.

  14. burgeoningfoodie says:

    Speaking of pizzas are you going to do another Fig Pizza? Tis the season right?

  15. burgeoningfoodie says:

    Yeah I’d like a darker crust. I think it would help.

  16. Michael says:

    We went again last night. Rick and his family are doing an amazing job! We had 6 diff pies (love Bleeker St) many apps (wings (so different than anything in town, stuffed mushrooms (the best), eggplant, meat/cheese) and an amazing nutella pizza to finish the night off. You must get this before you head home. I will be back again and again!

  17. Dave says:

    I went a week or two ago with my kids, and while we enjoyed it, I was not knocked out and I don’t think I would call it “great”.
    We got an appetizer of “pan fritti”, which I liked, but wasn’t what I expected, and a margherita pizza with sausage and meatballs (and when we requested “half sausage, half meatballs” were told that the crust was too thin to do that. I’m still baffled by that comment, since getting both on the pizza at the same time would’ve been fine, apparently). I thought my pizza (which was $14), was overpriced, considering one pizza is intended for one adult, but I did think that the ingredients were good, the service was good, and the beer selection was good.

    I prefer Salvios pizza (on Cary Pkwy) to this, so I’m going to put this down as “one of those things I don’t get”.

  18. NC Chevalier says:

    sorry, Dean: we don’t like this place nor the pizza.

    There’s way too much burnt crust for our tastes.

    Plus, we were there one night when they were touting a “smoked, fresh mozzarella” straight off the plane from Italy.

    Little did we know that the extra topping meant our two pies were priced at $20. Remember: These are individually-sized pizzas, not big honkers. (You can get a huge 20-inch pie from Fuhgetaboutit for less than twenty bucks.)

    When we got the bill, two managers came over to the table when they overheard us questioning the price. I suggested that servers should mention the price of nightly specials, especially when it means a 50% premium to the typical price of a pie.

    Although we were firm about our dissatisfaction, nothing was done to make us happy.

  19. Varmint says:

    If that burnt crust is not to your taste, Steve, then you haven’t enjoyed the best pizza in the world at places like Patsy’s, Grimaldi’s, Sally’s and the like. Pizza afficianados compare pizza based on the “char” of the crust. That is why I LOVE those pies.

    Now regarding the smoked mozzarella, I agree that the price of those types of specials MUST be disclosed. They hit me up for one expensive pie, and it totally caught me off-guard. They really need to take care of this.

  20. Rpower says:

    So excited to try this place! I used to go to Roberto Caporuscio’s restaurant in Pittsburgh before he moved to NYC to great acclaim.

  21. Wednesday210 says:

    My husband and I went to Bella Mia last night. It was heaven. We spent seven years exploring the best pizza NYC had to offer (Difara’s, Denino’s, Franny’s, Nick’s, Otto) and have missed the ability to get a genuine Neopolitan pizza since moving home to Cary. Many places in the Triangle call themselves NY pizza, but most just don’t get it. This pie is unique. Paper thin crust (preferably you can see daylight though it), sweet San Marzano sauce, fresh basil and char, baby (black & crispy YUM!). This isn’t the pie for everyone. In the past, we’ve even taken friends to some of our favorite places in the city and had them turn up their nose. I can relate, the Chicago style pizza’s make me queasy. It’s like pizza soup in a bread bowl. Not for me. I’m a pizza purist. Margherita straight from the oven (trust me, it’s worth it to risk the burn).

    We met virtually the whole family last night. Great folks, making great food. We will be back.

    Bella Mia è il paradiso sulla lingua.

  22. MB says:

    I recently had the pizza with lardo – YUMMY!

    Other than being a Jets fan, the owner seems “a ok” to me and I do love their pies.

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