If you are taking the time to read a Raleigh food blog, I am going to assume that you already know the local lore about Lilly's Pizza. Publishing a post about Lilly's Pizza to Raleigh's culinary community is like introducing Leonard Nimory at a Star Trek convention. Lilly's Pizza doesn't need my accolades, my compliments on its crust, fresh ingredients, and surprising toppings. It doesn't need any of that, but I am going to do it anyway because Lilly's Pizza is that good.
There is a certain frantic energy when you walk into Lilly's Pizza. Some people consider it chaos. Local art hangs from the walls beside replica airplanes, mannequins, old box signs, and posters.
Lilly's gets loud as conversations mix with the music and servers screaming out your name. The line to the counter becomes long and bloated, taking up a quarter of the restaurant. Servers zip up and down the crowded walkways, yelling names over the noise while trying to find where people are seated. Some of the cashiers take orders with a looks of disinterest, even a bit of distain.
And as all this swirls around suddenly a hot plate of excellence appears in front of you. Lilly's Aristocrat pizza has been a favorite of mine and Sara's. Loaded with roasted potatoes, roasted tomatoes, roasted onions, garlic, mushrooms and olive oil, it's a meal in a slice.
With all things pizza, the pizza's success is determined by the crust. Everyone is zealous about how they believe a pizza crust should be. Thin and crispy, thick and chewy, doughy and soft. Battles about pizza styles and crusts spark as many arguments as east coast/west coast rappers. So if you don't enjoy a soft, doughy, and chewy crust, you'll have a problem with Lilly's. Personally, I love their crust.
Due to some gluten sensitivity, Sara has started a gluten-free diet. To her delight and relief, Lilly's offers a gluten-free crust option. While she has tried only a couple of gluten-free crusts, Lilly's is the best GF crust she has had. The difference between the two crusts are minuscule. The gluten-free crust still retains its soft, doughy texture.
The gluten-free pizza only comes in 10", so I went a different route. I've never tried Lilly's calzones before and I figured since they are made with the same dough, it would be as equally delicious.
I wasn't disappointed. It was a monster calzone, as big as a typical small pizza, if not bigger. The dough was on point and the ingredients were fresh and delicious. The tomato sauce is sweet and bright with flavor.
For all its awards and praise, Lilly's Pizza comes down to the fact that it really is just that good.