I was a budget backpacker when I toured Italy in a campervan with four girlfriends back in 1998. It wasn’t a culinary experience by any means, but we made sure we had a thousand lira each day for a gelato (and yes, two weeks of that will put on weight even when you’re 22).
But one meal I’ll never ever forget, in fact I can still taste it, was the cheapest margherita pizza from Bari where we waited for our ferry to Athens. I’ve never had a pizza that good before, nor since.
But Giorgio Pizza Bar in North Hills comes close – and I didn’t even have the real deal pizza – that is one with a traditional crust. I thoroughly enjoyed the substitute of gluten free cauliflower crust with my Eggplant Milanese and anyone who is a gluten free eater will understand how difficult it is to rave about pizza!
You don’t understand the deliciousness of simplicity until you eat in Italy. While my Eggplant Milanese pizza was more complex with a variety of ingredients, the flavor was intense with the eggplant having the perfect mushy, melty texture that only happens when you drop it in the Italian’s favorite delicacy – olive oil.
Good for the body and good for the soil. But let’s back up a little.
Where is Giorgio Pizza Bar?
I hear you ask. It’s okay if you don’t know as it’s a relative newcomer to the Raleigh dining scene. Its owner, Giorgios Bakatsias’ however, is not.
Founder of Giorgios Hospitality Group, Giorgios is a James Beard nominee and an internationally recognized visionary restaurateur with 14+ restaurant concepts across the Triangle offering a variety of culinary samplings from every corner of the globe.
Not only have I loved every restaurant of his in Raleigh we’ve dined at, but I also love his belief in life,
“If you embrace life, it will yield untold experiences and love.”
I feel like I need to sit with Giorgios and share those untold experiences and my love for life has yielded across the globe.
Giorgio Pizza Bar opened in North Hills in January 2023 and already is becoming a firm favorite. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends and evenings.
The Giorgio Pizza Bar Vibe
We visited during lunch with our kids on one of those yucky wet weekends we had in May, so couldn’t sit on the colorful outside patio, ready for summer living. But, I was more than happy with our table inside soaking up the stylish and fun décor of the restaurant.
Like all his restaurants, the style is fresh, modern with touches of nostalgia and can be enjoyed as a casual or more romantic affair. His are a perfect match for Raleigh’s adolescent years…possibly a few years ahead into the hip and worldly twenties. (Where I hope Raleigh stays).
On the walls are vintage Italian cinema advertisements and black-and-white photographs of Italian stars. Most striking is Sophia Loren dominating the back wall.
This old world is hazed up with new world chandeliers, wooden tables, large windows, and an open kitchen.
Like Las Ramblas, where Craig and I had a date night recently, there is an inviting bar area with comfortable high back leather stools where you can see all the action.
This time we were eating with our daughters, getting them excited for our Italian summer trip and gathering content for our things to do in North Hills with kids guide. (Note: we were hosted by Giorgio’s but were not obligated to publish this post. We chose to because we loved it!)
Yes, it’s perfect for kids – it’s pizza and gelato! Lunch is recommended here during weekends as a family, as weekend dinners tend to lend more to “date night” and would not highlight the same elements that a family forward service would.
By the way, I wrote most of this post before our recent trip to Italy but could only get to publishing it after. So I have some comments in the post from pre and post Italy. (In case you get confused).
Firstly, let’s order Wine (or a craft cocktail)
The weather made it easy to choose the wine with our food – cozy, warming red. As we were only weeks away from a European summer trip, which included a two-night farm stay in Tuscany – complete with wine tasting and a cooking class – we could not eat at this Italian restaurant in Raleigh without ordering a bottle of Sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany – one of the best areas in Italy for wine!
It was lunch, and thankfully, you can take home whatever you can’t finish with your bottle. This is of course more cost effective than ordering wine by the lass if there is more than one of you – we were happy to have such delicious wine to enjoy later that evening with a light dinner.
There is a full Italian wine list but also, like Las Ramblas, craft cocktails to choose from, which included Italian flavors. Don’t dismiss the Aperol Spritz – it was our favorite time on our European trip! I have to return to Giorgio’s to try the Aperol Spritz again, now I’ve had the real deal in Italy, I’d like to see how it compares! Craig chose a Whiskey.
The drink list is easy to pair for any dining occasion. Start with a cocktail and pair your meal with a great Italian wine – and take home what you can’t finish!
The food at Giorgio’s Pizza Bar
The stars of the menu of course are the Chef Jefe Lubiano’s thin, hand-tossed, sourdough pizzas where you can find flavors such as pesto and smoked mushrooms (Fellini), roasted pear and gorgonzola (Ornella), and more traditional margherita pepperoni and calzone.
Pasta dishes are slowly cooked in an earthen clay pot. Select from Shrimp Linguine, Pappardelle Ragu, Bucatini Primavera, and mains like Salmon Picatta and Boneless Short Rib (bistec de churrasco).
There are also shared plates of vegetables, and daily blackboard features.
Chef Jefe Lubiano brings a lot of experience and talent to Giorgio’s. He owned and operated his own pizzeria – Pop’s Back Door South, from 2013-2016. He also has a strong track record with the Triangle food scene working alongside Chef Dan Jackson at Osteria Georgi in Chapel Hill and the Durham Hotel, alongside James Beard award-winning Chef Andrea Reusing.
As the menu is so good and you’ll want to eat quite a few dishes, I recommend sharing pizzas and other dishes – Italian is great for that!
The smells lifting off the food as our meals were delivered were driving me wild as I had to wait for the photographer (husband Craig) to be finished.
As Craig and I commented, Brussel Sprouts never turn out good in photos – it’s that tangled up crunchy mess, but they turn out so good with flavor. This didn’t miss a beat with its honey-lemon sauce, garlic yogurt, mixed nuts, sesame seeds and fresh herbs.
It’s funny how a food that made you throw up as a child can somehow become one of your favorite dishes as an adult and one you can never resist ordering – Brussel sprouts.
Was it how my mum cooked it, or was it just my immature taste buds? I just hope it’s on the specials board when you dine here!
And then the olives – like I said, simplicity. You don’t know olives until you’ve eaten them in the Mediterranean. In fact, talking about taste buds changing, I hated them until Craig and I visited Turkey on our first-year wedding anniversary in 2003. Every restaurant would bring out plates of olives to the table when you sat down – just like chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant.
We would devour them. I never knew olives could be so good. Now I love them and the Giorgio version with fennel that was completely moorish.
I snuck a bite of Craig’s Pappardelle Ragu, only the lamb, not the pasta. The ragu tasted just like an Italian likes it, rich with the depth that comes with slow cooking. I know this as in Tuscany we did a cooking class and made ragu (except ours was the quick, not as good, version).
The ragu elevated the Sangiovese to another level. You couldn’t find a more perfect match. (We also learned in Florence that Chianti wine should always be taken with food. It will taste very different if not.)
As mentioned, my Eggplant Milanese pizza is divine. It’s topped with pomodoro, mozzarella, roasted fennel, broccolini, sausage, toasted breadcrumbs (hold them for gluten free).
Over her pepperoni and sausage pizza, Savannah and I discussed our plans for cooking in Tuscany, gelato in Florence, and a food tour in Rome, taking time to practice a few Italian words in between.
She’s been busy learning Duo Lingo, and since she learns Latin at School, I felt confident in nominating her head translator and guide for the trip. This is why I love exploring the different cuisines on offer at our Raleigh restaurants with the girls.
You may not always be able to take a trip over to Italy and France, but you can experience it through the flavors on a plate, and Giorgio is ripe with, not just Italian flavors, but proper techniques of cooking to get the authentic flavors.
And what did Kalyra think of her Cinque Formaggio Pizza (that is four cheeses in Italian)? “That pizza is really good.” And that is an EXTRA positive response from a teen!
She had a similar response for the trifle – with Savannah rolling right behind her with the same affirmation. I was unsure if Savannah would enjoy it as a trifle can be a little more complex with its different layers and merging of food sources and textures.
But I mean, how can you not like a dessert that layer’s cream with cake. I was JEALOUS! Trifle was my favorite dessert as a child, and one my mum rarely made as it was a lot of work, but boy when she did, I was happy.
Thanks to that trip down memory lane, I could share with my daughters. Now, Giorgio’s, would it be too difficult to do a gluten free version? If only.
But never fear, there is gelato here!
Kalyra wasn’t as enthusiastic about the gelato here as she was about her pizza. I think Americans like everything sweeter. I love gelato as it’s heavier on the cream than the sweet. But she did sneak the chocolate cookie.
But I will say there is no gelato like gelato in Italy – as I said. I ate daily gelatos in Italy as a 22-year-old, and I don’t even have a strong sweet tooth.
I’m going to have to practice restraint in Florence as a 47-year-old body doesn’t burn that energy quite so well. (Note from our post- Italy trip. I ate daily gelato and did not put on any weight! The key? Walking 10-15 miles per day!)
Final Thoughts about Giorgio’s in North Hills
Midtown Raleigh has added yet another classy global style restaurant to their neighborhood streets. Don’t worry about that elevation reaching too far into the fancy and romantic zone.
From families, to groups, and lovers, Giorgio has an opening time, menu, and seating arrangement perfect for you. You can even skip dining in and order to go!
Why not pair a visit with any of the events happening in North Hills, especially during the warmer months, or simply make it a date night.
Now we’re back from Italy and missing our daily Aperol spritz, incredible Italian food (and gelato), we may be eating here more often!
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 11:30 a.m.- 10:00 p.m, Sunday: 4:30pm- 9:00pm
- Address: 141 Park at N Hills St Suite 112, Raleigh
- Website: GiorgioPizzaBar.com