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Go Local: Bella Mia Makes a Beautiful Pizza

June 30, 2010 | Story by: | Categories: Food, Go Local, Restaurants, Shop & Dine

Owner Rick Guerra and sons Louis and Anthony

Owner Rick Guerra and sons Louis and Anthony

Story & photos: Leslie Huffman

Cary, NC – I had just returned from a trip with my son to New York City where we infused our senses with New York style coal-fired pizza. On the plane home we both discussed how we can never go back to eating pizza at any of the local chains again.

Then, one day later I got an e-mail inviting me to visit Bella Mia, a brand new coal-fired pizza joint, that just opened up at the Arboretum in Cary.  Bella Mia means “my beautiful one” in Italian. I salivated at the thought and made plans to visit.

Family Run

I met with Rick Guerra and his sons Louis and Anthony who were busy making preparations for the day.  Two coal-fire ovens glowed in the kitchen while dough was being prepared and fresh vegetables were sliced.  Rick came to Cary two years ago. He had visited son Anthony who was attending UNC in Chapel Hill and decided North Carolina was the place to be.

For years, Rick sold wholesale produce in New York and was ready for a change.  Louis, a graduate from NYU, received special training in traditional Neapolitan pizza making along with his brother Anthony and opened shop with their father.

“Our goal is to change the perception of pizza in North Carolina,” said Rick Guerra. “Bella Mia is an extension of how we cook at home, and we want our customers to experience true Italian generosity in a casual, friendly and lively atmosphere.”

The Atmosphere

Before I entered, I was expecting a small place with tables and pictures of Italy on the walls.  But what I saw was a sophisticated dinning area with a contemporary open kitchen. The coal-fire ovens were the focal point surrounded by mosaic tile and granite counter tops.

A wonderful feature of the restaurant was the bar that invited guests to hang out and sample the nice selection of wines and beers.  Dark woods and warm colors on the walls made for a comfortable but refined atmosphere not typical of a pizza place.

The Ingredients


Bella Mia’s coal-burning ovens reach temperatures of 900 degrees, twice as hot as a gas oven, allowing the pizza to cook in less than three minutes with a light, airy crust. Rick imports flour from Italy and fresh mozzarella from Brooklyn and visits the NC farmer’s market four times a week.  Meats come from Rare Earth Farms in Zebulon, which raises only grass-fed beef.

Every morning they roast the days market fresh vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, asparagus, mushrooms, squash and corn.  Hand-rolled meatballs and fresh pizza sauce are prepared daily, too.

The Best Part: The Food

With true Italian hospitality, Rick brought out from the kitchen four different salads and roasted chicken wings for me to sample.  The salads were all lightly dressed and included ingredients like arugula, cherry tomatoes, cranberries, Asian pears, granny smith apples and walnuts.  Cheeses like fresh mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, goat cheese and Gorgonzola were paired with each salad.BellaMia1

The oven-roasted vegetables came out on a large plate filled with different vegetables and all seasoned and roasted to perfection.  If you love vegetables, don’t miss ordering these from the menu.


Next came the coal oven roasted chicken wings.  No sloppy sauce on these wings.  Extra virgin olive oil, salt, rosemary and thyme, roasted and topped with caramelized onions made these wings fly off the bone and fill my mouth with joy.

Then, the pizza.  I have three words to describe the pie: simple, fresh and delicious.  Louis and Anthony made a Margherita pizza and the Bleeker St. pizza for me to try.  The pizza tasted like home-made pizza from Italy.

BellaMia3A thin, and puffy crust with some brick oven blackening, a light touch with the sauce and fresh mozzarella brought me back to Tuscany.  This is the way pizza was meant to taste.  It is not weighed down with heavy sauce and tons of cheese and toppings.  It is a simple pizza, with simple ingredients that bring out each flavor in a fresh and traditional Italian way.

BellaMia4The Bleeker St. pie was made with parmiggiano reggiano, fresh mozzarella, piled with arugula and prosciutto.  This was the first time I have had pizza with fresh arugula.  It was fantastic with it’s slightly bitter taste against the saltiness of the prosciutto and a light, airy crust.


I am moving in!  If you tout yourself as a foodie, and crave fresh ingredients, you should not miss Bella Mia.  The prices here are higher than you will find in your average pizza establishment.  But, this spot is not average.  You will taste a pie that is much different and better quality than you are used to.  This pizza has integrity.


9 Responses to Go Local: Bella Mia Makes a Beautiful Pizza


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  1. Lisa --

    June 30, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    I hope this place succeeds. My husband and I went last week and we were blown away. Hands down, best pizza in NC.

  2. Lindsey Chester

    July 1, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    They were such a friendly bunch when I stopped by with my Scavenger Hunt Poster. Good Luck Belle Mia!!!

  3. Lor

    July 16, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    Do they have gluten-free pizza like Lily’s Pizza does? Or other gluten-free pasta offerings like Bella Monica has?

  4. Elissa and Joe Dellosso

    July 19, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    We ate there for the first time about 2 weeks ago. We’re from NYC and we had a favorite pizzaria we went to 2-3 times per week for their brick oven pizza. We LOVED Bella Mia. The Panini was great and so was the pizza.

  5. Justin Gregg

    July 24, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    Can’t wait to try this place out!

  6. Joe

    July 29, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    The atmosphere was great! The pizza was a disappointment. It was more like stewed tomatoes thrown on-top of bubbly (not fully cooked) dough.

    I grew up in PA and lived in NY and this pizza place wouldn’t survive unless the owners won the lottery.

    Sorry about this post but that was how disappointed I was.

  7. Bobster

    September 17, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    Do You Ship To California

  8. Cynthia

    January 21, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Do you ship to Miller Place High School? I would like to treat my students to some real pizza!

  9. Cynthia

    January 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    PS Who’s the hottie in the middle?