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Mozzarella Fellas: More than its name

by Kristi Maier

@triadfoodies

I’m just going to get to the point.

The north side of Winston-Salem has some brand new deliciousness and you should make a point to get there, pronto.

Brian Ricciardi is a native New Yorker who now calls North Carolina home. Darrell Coltrane is a High Point military brat who spent time growing up in Sicily. They are the Mozzarella Fellas, specializing in pizza, but their eatery has a great selection of appetizers and entrees that elevate it to more than just a pizza place. The team makes their mozzarella fresh daily. Another interesting tidbit—.one of the fellas is vegan and you’ll find several fresh vegan options on the menu (vegan cheese, for instance), as well as gluten-free items, including a pizza crust.

My family came away nothing less than highly impressed. And we dabbled in a little bit of everything. The mozzarella bites were quite delectable and really different as most of the time such an appetizer is a fried version of a cheese “stick.” These were actually fresh mozzarella, fried and served with a homemade marinara. We also tried the Tuscan Shrimp, East Coast shrimp doused in a light tomato sauce with smoked paprika and served with a horseradish aioli. For a change of pace, for an Italian restaurant anyway, we tried the Cheese Steak Chips—homemade chips with shaved prime rib, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, served with ranch. Coltrane also sent out a small sample of the freshly prepared ravioli. The pasta pillows were filled with ricotta and sausage that had that great flavor of fennel and other herbs. Of course, the night wouldn’t be complete without pizza. And we were walloped with two huge pies—-the Siciliano with Italian meats like sausage, capicola and salami with a bright sprinkling of basil and oregano that made it fantastic. Also, a Popeye pizza, which is a white pizza with lots of garlic, spinach, fresh mozzarella and ricotta. The latter came with mushrooms, courtesy of the kitchen because they know we love adventure. Everything we tasted was incredibly fresh and flavorful. The pizza was perfectly crisp on the bottom. It tasted nearly buttery in flavor, though there’s no butter in it. Coltrane told us, “We make our dough every day from scratch. There’s no oil, it’s completely vegan. There’s no set recipe because we have to factor in temperature outside versus temperature inside as well as humidity so it’s different every day.”

This pizza is probably the best I’ve had in the city. And that’s saying something.

There are various specialty pies as well as an option to build your own. A neighboring table ordered a gorgeous pie that’s called the Flag of Italy, with grilled chicken, pesto, tomatoes and mozzarella. It smelled heavenly so that’s now on my radar. Pasta for the ravioli is made in house every day, which is evident when you try it. Dressings are homemade as well. They shave and slice all their meats daily. And most of the ingredients are sourced locally. Desserts are also made on site. Do not leave without ordering a Pie-O-My, a fried dough crust topped with Nutella, straw berries, bananas and powdered sugar.

While you’re at it, don’t leave without a cannoli either. It’s pretty luscious.

The owners got their experience working for the renowned Mario’s. “I grew up in Sicily and thought I might be able to be an asset,” Coltrane said. “I asked them for a job and the owner let me start immediately. From there, I helped the company expand and open additional locations. Brian and I enjoyed that experience so much and learned a lot from working with Mario’s. And we thought we could do our own concept with more entrees and incredibly fresh ingredients with sit-down service.”

“We work with the staff to ensure they are knowledgeable—we force feed them as often as possible,” Ricciardi joked. Coltrane adds, “It’s important for us to have the absolute freshest ingredients possible. Our staff knows where the shrimp comes from, when the mozzarella was made, that the shaved beef is prime rib. That’s very important to us. That they taste each and every item on the menu so that they can tell the customer about the dish. We have servers that never tasted spinach until they tried it on the Popeye pizza. And now they love it.”

The education of their staff is evident.

Our server, Ashley, knew about every dish that she served. She told us that she’s been a server for a few years now and when she walked in the door and met the “fellas,” she knew it’s where she wanted to be. “I really like working for them because they take the time to work with us and teach us about each ingredient and each dish. You can just tell that they care about the quality of the dishes and I wanted to work with owners who really care about the experience.”

Prices are very affordable. For $2.75, you can get a giant slice of cheese pizza. Business has been very good over the past few months, despite it being off the beaten path for some of the more popular restaurants in Winston-Salem. Ricciardi says, “We like to think we are bringing a little bit of downtown to the north end of Winston-Salem. I’m a believer in the fact that you don’t need a premier address to provide a quality dining experience. The overall experience is our focus. This is our passion and we strive to hit on all cylinders.”

Mr. Foodie put it a nice way, “With such a catchy name, you wouldn’t expect it to be a full scale Italian restaurant with such great quality.” At the same time, the name completely describes them. Laid back fellas, making mozzarella and rolling out dough and keeping it super fresh. Delivery is available via Chow Time Taxi and Mr. Foodie took advantage of it one night last week and ordered the Chicken Parm and a slice of cheese for the wee one. And they were both quite pleased.

The attention to quality and preparation at Mozzarella Fellas is something many of us who claim to be “foodies” or big supporters of quality food that’s also local, talk about and long for, but rarely experience because it’s so easy to just do the convenient thing. I say, drive a few extra miles to eat here and you’ll be so glad you did. !

WANNA go?

Mozzarella Fellas is located at 336 Summit Square Boulevard, Winston-Salem. Also available for delivery via chowtimetaxi.com.

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