I feel strongly that Zio makes the best pizza in Charlotte and they seem to be doing so a little further off the radar than their packed dining room would imply. They’re three pages deep on Yelp (behind Jets WHY) and didn’t even show up on any of the other top 10 Charlotte pizza lists I scanned. This is a tragedy because this pizza deserves to be eaten.
Zio sells two types of pizza: grilled pizza, which is cooked extra crisp over an open flame and cut into squares, and the legendary hot pie, New York style with 8 big slices created by Uncle Adolph “Duff” Consol who opened the family’s first restaurant in NYC back in 1946.
Duff’s nephew Jim Consol took over the New York restaurant in 1989, adding the grilled pizzas to the menu in 1998 and opening a Charlotte location in 2005. He named the Charlotte restaurant Zio, the Italian word for uncle, in honor of Duff and his pizza legacy.
My boyfriend and I eat a good amount of pizza but we tend to just go with what’s closest instead of what’s best, and I assure you this is the best. We went Friday night and got fried ravioli, a Naples hot pie and a spinach grilled pizza. (Pizzas were all between $10-12, one size only).
I actually think rankings of restaurants are futile because food is so personal and subjective. For example, if you’re a diehard Chicago deep dish fan, you’ll hate everything about Zio because they’re all about the thin and crispy crust. So while Zio is my hands down #1 pizza place in Charlotte, you no doubt have your own.
So here’s a breakdown of what to expect from key components of the pizza experience so you can make an educated decision on what Zio has to offer. (Because pizza is a big, important decision.)
Crust: Crispy yet chewy and in no way dry and bready.
Sauce: Some of their pizzas do come with red sauce but others have no sauce at all or rely on chunky tomatoes for that pop of red. (For the record, their red sauce is perfect and I know this because we were literally shoveling it into our fried ravioli appetizer.)
Cheese: Real deal, full fat, perfectly melted, lightly browned. I hate soggy untoasted cheese like what you’d get if you put a pizza in the microwave. Hurl. Brown that sucker under the broiler.
Toppings: Straightforward selection of 12 standard and 10 premium meats, cheeses and veggies. Whenever possible, herbs and vegetables are harvested from their on-site organic garden. Hello. (Heads up, there’s no pepperoni. My boyfriend was really horrified.)
Stuffed crust option: What is this, Little Caesars? Get out.
Price: Pizzas are all in the $10-12 range for a sizable one size fits all.
Size: Don’t be fooled by the “one size fits all”; it’s not a personal pizza. I’d compare it to a medium at most other places. My 6-foot 200-pound boyfriend ate half of his if that helps.
Placemats: So legit.
Ambience & Clientele: Family-friendly hole in the wall lined with cozy booths. We were the oldest and youngest ones there by about 30 years. At 7pm on a Friday night it seemed to be packed with nothing but retirees and their grandkids. Totally our speed.
So there you have it… the best, least appreciated pizza in Charlotte. Get in there.
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