What: Pizza joint serving up authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, Italian delicacies, signature cocktails + much more.
When: Tues-Thurs 11:12a-10p; Fri-Sat 11:12a-10:30p; Sun 11:12a-9p
Why we love them:
**Pssst: Pompieri Pizza is one of our Premium partners, so we headed over there to get the DL on how to have the best experience possible. Not in Premium (or not even sure what we're talking about)? Learn more here about this monthly subscription for exploring your city (or ask one of your Premium friends for a referral to score your first month free!)**
We’re big believers that while there’s really no such thing as bad pizza per se, there is such a thing as superior pizza. Luckily, Pompieri’s got that, plus plenty of Durham chutzpah to boot. Located in a centuries-old fire station just on the edge of Durham’s city center, Pompieri Pizza boasts a locally-sourced menu, hydroponic herbs grown on-site, and walls lined with pizza-themed art made by the community. Of course, their claim to fame is their authentic, Neapolitan-style pies, which are light, airy and totally addictive. And beyond the ‘za, you’ll also find a fresh menu of seasonal salads, starters, homemade gelato, and a full bar. It’s really no wonder Durhamites just can’t seem to get enough.
To put it plainly, Pompieri’s pies are just done right. Authentically Italian and inspired by the owner’s adventures traveling north to south of Italy (twice!), they’re bona fide experts who’ve nailed down the intricacies of Neapolitan pizza. Every day, they’re firing up their ovens imported directly from Italy to churn out pizza pies made with traditional Italian flour and flawless execution. The crust is skillfully thin, the edges are charred for the gods, and the toppings are laid on lightly, just like they should be. Now we don’t know about you, but we think that’sss amoreeee.
The name itself, Pompieri (Italian for firefighters, duh), pays tribute to the building’s roots as Durham’s original fire station (like the very first one). And once you take one step inside, you’ll see how seamlessly they’ve blended its history into the space over the last six years. Yep, their space kept the original garage doors that now open up to a gorg outdoor patio and their bar was clearly designed with firefighting in mind. Take a seat at the bar and enjoy drafts poured from bright red hose-like pipes while you peruse plenty of festive signage that shares both the history of the space and what’s on tap. Needless to say, Pompieri brought fire back to the fire station.
Your pies might take a minute while they’re being wood-fired to perfection, so while you wait, they’ve got you covered with share-worthy small bites to start you off right. Popular choices include the Arancini which is a small tray of bite-sized fried ricotta balls rolled with goat cheese, lemon zest, and marinara. The Italian Poutine (that can be made vegan!) is the perf precursor for their pizza, too. It’s basically crispy-fried pizza dough that’s smothered in house-made spicy beer marinara, then accented with curds and oregano.
The Pompieri must be a damn good choice, it’s named after the entire place after all. But just to assure you, it is. It’s coated with their rich red sauce and layered with their housemade mozz before it’s topped with chili olive oil and slightly sweet peppadews. Ooey gooey 'za, need we say more?
If you're not vegan (and/or gluten-free), you may not know that Pompieri is a mecca for those folks. Why? They make their own vegan mozzarella in-house that's so spot-on, the vegan community cannot get enough of it. It's been so popular, they even added a vegan pie as a mainstay on the menu. Cue The Barry White, an all-vegan pizza, from crust to toppings. It gets that classic char they’re known for and is loaded up with white cashew and garlic sauce before getting a layer of housemade vegan mozz, roasted red peppers, and chopped spinach—mmm!
But don't worry meat (and beer) lovers, there's plenty in store for you. In fact, the Drunken Horse was pretty much made for you. It starts with Birra Rossa-infused pizza crust before it’s topped with red sauce and spicy pork Italian sausage, baked down with house mozzarella and Sicilian olive oil for all the extra pizzaz.
Pompieri pumps out 7-inch pizzas only available at lunch. They’re intentionally light but delicious as ever, essentially two slices of ‘za portioned for a quick hour of indulgence. If you haven’t snagged one yet, just know—you’re missing out on the goods.
They’ve also got a signature sammies on deck for lunch and, well, they're kind of a big deal. Coined the Zeppino, these flavor-packed sandwiches are made with homemade dough and pressed in the wood-fired oven. They’ve got six mainstays on their Zeppino menu, all worth taking a full lunch hour for. But our fave? The Might Melanzana. It’s warm, packed with pan-seared eggplant, local roasted peppers, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, then stuffed with fresh salad greens that are glazed in balsamic vinegar and basil olive oil. We're drooling just thinking about it.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Thankfully, it's not. Every Sunday, Pompieri offers “Family Meal.” It’s a unique concept where, for just $18, you’ll enjoy AYCE ‘experimental pies’ that roam the restaurant, alongside a family-style seasonal salad and side, plus soft drinks, and gelato. Just be warned, your phone is off-limits during Family Meal. Yep, diners are encouraged to surrender their cell phones and connect with their fam (convo cards provided on the table for those of you panicking about getting stuck in small talk). But one bite of their supremely unique 'za, and you'll forget all about whatever is happening on your feed.
After stuffing yourself silly on all their phenomenal apps and pies, you’re probably going to try and debate dessert, but stop right there. Don't you dare even think about skipping the sweet stuff. On the daily, they’re designing desserts in-house that are truly as impressive and decadent as everything that rolls out of their kitchen.
Their Housemade Gelato (like bona fide Italian gelato) is churned to the creamiest consistency, making it stupid good. It's served in small and medium portions, and can be ordered as a sampler flight , or pints that can be taken home for later. Whatever you choose—we assure you—it’s a must-have you won’t find anywhere else.
They've got plenty of other rich and indulgent desserts that are all housemade and, most impressively, gluten-free and vegan! We're talking about Crisp Marsala & Orange Crème Brûlée, coconut-based Vegan Cheesecake, and even a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae that's so good you'll swear it can't be vegan.
You'll also find delights like the Chocolate Amaretto Torta that comes dripping with amaretto dulce de leche—wowza. It's a chocolate lover's dream (and also perfectly gluten-free!) featuring hazelnut sponge cake layered with chocolate mousse and topped with a thin coat of rich chocolate ganache.
Pompieri’s bar is slightly unsuspecting and a little tucked away, but once you peep over and take a seat, you’ll realize they’re serving up fire there too. Beyond a small selection of delectable bar snacks, they’ve got vino by the glass and an extensive bottle list with wines sourced from all regions of Italy. They also show a lot of love for what’s local, with NC breweries like Bull City Burger and Brewery and local hard ciders always available on draft.
If a hand-crafted cocktail is what you fancy, you’re in the right spot. They’ve got Bedlam Vodka and other local faves on lock, and they even make their own tonic in-house that’ll make elevate any concoction you ask for. But if we’re getting into the nitty-gritty, The Anchor & Hold is a popular choice for Lambrusco lovers (more on that in a sec) who are down for some citrusy sweet sips, while the A-Side Apple Cider features a dry local cider with a twist of cinnamon.
They make their own Limoncello and it’s the perfect after-dinner treat. But their real claim to fame is educating locals on Lambrusco. It's a delightful, lightly sparkling wine (often red but there's white too) that hails from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and it’s been so popular, they throw an entire festival to celebrate it every year. So heads up, and mark your calendar for LambruscoFest, June 2020, where you’ll sample lots of Lambrusco, listen to live music, and enjoy endless Italian food.