I'd heard Papa Bella's had became Uncle Louie's, but I'd been a bit lazy in regards to trying the new joint out. Actually - full disclosure - I told the other dolt who has written a couple reviews on this site to check it out for me. After all, he was the dude who reviewed Papa Bella's. (When I went there to review it they had "run out of pizza dough". Nimrods.) Then a friend of mine texted me the picture shown above and demanded I get off my ass and review it.
I hope this place does well, and it probably will. The area needs a pizzeria. There used to be a Dominos in this same shopping center. I used to work there, in fact. For about a week. I was a delivery driver because they were short-staffed and my friend was an assistant manager. This could speak to any number of things but it probably has more to do with my work ethic than anything else: holy shit, that job sucked. After I was hired they were like, okay, get this, you won't be delivering pizzas all the time so if there's nothing going on just wash dishes and fold pizza boxes.
I think that's pretty standard as far as pizzerias go, but do you know what I did? Here's a clue, I didn't wash a single damn thing and I still don't know how the fuck those box wizards fold those infernal boxes into glorified pizza wombs. I just delivered pizzas. And it was still a nightmare. Well, in any case, that Dominos is now a bar (upgrade) and the only other pizzeria nearby is fucking Hoobies.
If you've been to Papa Bella's in the past (either its former incarnation or its former former incarnation), walking into the new Uncle Louie's might give you a bit of a shock. The interior is 100% different. The old setup was really going for the grungy bar feel. It had a certain charm which I would have respected except they were in a strip mall and they were just gross. Uncle Louie's is going for a more upscale approach. Upon entry I immediately wondered if this gameplan even had a chance at success, given the location. They seemed to be doing fine - at least at the bar - because it was sorta crowded. Papa Bella's never seemed so busy, from my limited experience (I used to live a short walk from this location but I preferred walking an extra second and getting a frozen pizza and a six-pack from Food Lion).
I have to say that I really liked the layout and vibe of the bar. Reasonable bar specials were an added, lovely bonus.
Sweet baby Jesus I guess I'll mention the pizza.
At first glance it's not a terribly impressive sight. Especially without the crushed red pepper applied as pictured above. The rim of the crust seems underdone (or raw, maybe) and overall it sort of looked boring-bordering-on-stupid.
It wasn't quite so bad, though.
I usually start with the bad but the first thing that hit me was that the cheese was pretty good. They're clearly using a good product here, which might have to do with the fact that they also have a vaguely upscale menu featuring dishes which also contain mozzarella. So the cheese was good and greasy and I have no real complaints there. The saucing of the pizza was reasonable. It was bordering on being undersauced but this only caused me to have a difficult time tasting it individually and therefore being able to critique it individually (good job, you sneaky fuckers). As near as I could tell, the sauce was okay and reasonably applied.
The dough was basically shit. It's not the worst in town but it's also not far off, either. The top rim looked nearly raw; the bottom of the slice looked much the same, except where it was overly charred. The char can most likely be chalked up to an oven that is not cleaned often enough; a sloppy kitchen staff. The rest of the dough being really dense and underdone (at some points close-to-raw) is more difficult to explain.
I'm going to put my crazy pizza wizard hat on and guess that their poor, sad dough balls never get proofed. Possibly under-yeasted as well. This abortiony kind of pizza smacks you right in the face because on the one hand the pies are incredibly thin but on the other hand there is no bounce to them. No crumb is developed, there is no spring to the crust and it merely becomes a sloppy vessel to deliver some toppings to your face. Is there anything wrong with that? Yes there is, because: It should be so easy:
High gluten flour. Salt it. Water it. Proof it. All of a sudden, baby, you got a stew goin'.
I like the bar.
4 1/2 recircs out of a possible 8 recircs (lower is better)Uncle Louie's Pizza Lounge - $2.50 + tax 3224 Suite F North College Road, Wilmington, NC 28405