Overall Experience - 8.7
Summary : Delicious pies at a pizza place in small town America with reasonable prices and a great outdoor seating area
Mooresville, North Carolina. Ever heard of it? I didn’t think so. And it’s certainly not a town where you’d expect to find any decent pizza. But I happen to have a friend who lives there. And for the past few years, he’s been raving about a new pizza place in his town. So on a recent trip to North Carolina, it was time to see what the hype was all about.
Located 30 minutes north of Charlotte, Aliño Pizzeria (500 South Main Street #401) is housed in a section of a large warehouse building, just outside of the town’s central district (the word “aliño” means “seasoning” in Spanish, but has no translation in Italian as far as I can tell). My first impression of the place was that it reminded me of a pizzeria in Nashville called DeSano’s Pizza Bakery.
Let’s do a quick side by side comparison:
On the left, we have the tables and benches at DeSano’s. On the right, the same seating at Aliño.
(notice the Italian flags hanging on the wall at both places)
On the left, the three ovens at DeSano’s. On the right, practically identical ovens (three of them!) at Aliño.
(the wood is even stored in the exact same spot — under the ovens — at both places)
Want to drizzle some olive oil on your pie? On the left, DeSano’s. On the right, Aliño.
(both located on a table right in front of the ovens)
Enjoy outdoor seating? You can do so at DeSano’s on the left. And Aliño on the right.
And finally, if you like a menu hanging above the register, on the left is DeSano’s and on the right is Aliño.
A good investigative pizza journalist might have looked into this more. But I was there with friends and wanted to enjoy my afternoon. So I simply took note of the similarities. But not knowing the story, makes for some interesting conspiracy theories. Which came first? Do the owners know each other? Is this actually a complete coincidence? Did one place steal its ideas from the other? (cue the music… there are more questions than answers on this episode of: Pizzeria Wars)
I really liked DeSano’s in Nashville (I gave it an 8.6 rating) and — surprise, surprise — I similarly liked Aliño. But there were some differences when it came to the pizza. The pies at DeSano’s come in two sizes: personal and large. The personal pies were about $12-$14, with the bigger pies running around $18-$20. At Aliño, they only serve the large size pies, but they are priced at $16 (with the Margherita, slightly cheaper at $14). So I was a fan of these prices!
There were a total of 10 pies on the menu and we ordered the following three:
Roasted ham, cremini mushrooms, artichokes, san marzano tomoato sauce, fresh buffalo mozzarella
Cremini mushrooms, caramelized Ciopellini onions, fresh garlic, truffle oil
All three pies were great. I think I liked the margherita the best, but you can’t go wrong with the other two. Each pie is definitely enough for two people — our group of four ate about 2.5 pies. Although the entire experience was a bit of a case of déjà vu, the edge definitely goes to Aliño for a number of reasons.
First — while Nashville has a strong food scene, you wouldn’t expect to find this type of high quality of pizza in the suburbs of North Carolina. So the owners of Aliño deserve some credit for opening up a pizza place here and bringing flavors and ingredients to a community that might not otherwise have regular access to this kind of food.
Second — the price point was very reasonable, especially given the aforementioned quality of the pies. Since two people can split a pie, that means dinner is unlikely to run you more than $10/person. I’ll cheers to that!
And finally — the outdoor seating at Aliño is really pleasant. If it’s a nice day, you can’t really beat the picnic tables out in front. At DeSano’s, you’re basically sitting in a parking lot.
So the next time I’m back in Mooresville, I know where I’ll be stopping for pizza.