A city isn’t a real city until the smell of pizza bubbling in an oven overwhelms even the messiest fumes from downtown construction sites.
Well, we’ve hit the big time, Durham.
officially opened a pizzeria downtown at 11 a.m. today, where you can finally get a single slice for lunch and much more. Anticipating crazy lines, I raced over there by 11:02 with INDY Week
colleague Allison Hussey. She caught a whiff of our lunch before I did. But once the smell of melting mozzarella hit my nose (a Greek one, with olfactory senses trained in Jersey), I felt a calming sense of home.
In April, the pizza truck announced it would open its brick-and-mortar location above The Pinhook
. (The truck will still rove the streets and area office parks.) Construction started in July to outfit the space, originally built in the 1890s, with a full kitchen and seating. At the end of July, a guy in the work crew warned me that opening in four weeks, as they had planned, was proving to be “muy difícil.” It took a little longer, but the modern build-out has resulted in a perfect nook for Pie Pushers’s first true pizzeria.
Sleek, sturdy stairs lead up to a “PIZZA” sign illuminated by round, clear lightbulbs. A black-and-white menu above a small counter offers favorites from the truck, with pizzas sold whole or by the slice. You can also build your own, or order something completely new. Mike Hacker, who owns Pie Pushers with his wife, Becky Cascio, says he was most excited about a new kitchen space with room for two deep fryers, which is allowing him to create a more inventive menu.
The eggplant fries are righteous, with a lightly crisp coating out of the fryer that gives way to a plump bite. Eggplant is sliced into sticks about the size of steak fries, skin-on, but without any bitterness. The fries taste slightly sweet, served with a rich marinara as a dip. A fryer also means fried garlic knots stuffed with pepperoni and cheese, which I really don’t have any words for, just sounds.
Clean and minimalist, the restaurant makes use of its altitude, large windows, and exposed brick, allowing natural light to settle onto the booths and small tables during the day.
A walk-up window right next to The Pinhook’s entrance employs a dumbwaiter. Cascio says window service should be open by the weekend.
Pie Pushers is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2.am, with beer and wine.