Suppli al Telefono – Piedmont Chanterelles, Mozzarella
Ricotta Dumplings – Walnuts, Pittsboro Pumpkin
San Marzano Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil
Considered by many to be Durham’s best pizza, and by some as the best Neapolitan Pie in the State of North Carolina, it was after touring the Duke Campus and witnessing K-Ville first hand that we stopped in to Pizzeria Toro and although service seemed to be exceedingly preoccupied with something going on behind closed doors despite several full tables in the restaurant at the beginning of service it would be hard to call the cuisine itself anything less than exemplary.
Owned and operated by locals, but twice plagued by fires that almost led to the restaurant closing its doors, Pizzeria Toro has now been reopened for just six months and with the woodfired oven since retooled it should seem obvious that pizzas are under close surveillance from the pizzaiolos yet with several salads, soups, and antipasti to tempt it was actually the latter that constituted 2/3 of our order – the predisposed service unfortunately ignoring the kitchen’s requests for delivery and thus causing me to stand up and deliver my own order after six minutes of cooling, the move so obvious it drew looks from other customers and an apology from the young woman responsible with both items omitted from our tab when the bill arrived later.
Thankfully unaffected by the delay, at least from what I can gather, it was first in the tender dumplings that we each sunk our teeth and with both the pumpkin and pasta similar in texture with the gourd far more sweet it was the combination of walnuts and pecorino that brought the dish to new heights, each balanced bite showing a deft hand in the kitchen while the arancini was no less impressive, replacing traditional meat filling with aromatic mushrooms in buttery rice fortified by creamy mozzarella.
Overhearing from a nearby table that dessert was ‘unfortunately not available,’ for reasons undisclosed, it was not long before the piece de resistance emerged from the oven and, with far more attention to service at this point, the hot pie was brought tableside no less than 30 seconds later with crust still smoking and milky mozzarella bubbling hot, the overall texture slightly more ‘set’ at the center than a true Neapolitan but the flavors no less impressive as charred crust with just enough spring proved substantial enough to support bright San Marzanos without a bit of added sweetness and just enough salt and basil to make the flavors pop.