After working up and down the nation’s east coast for more than a decade, Zach and Amber Faulisi could have gone anywhere to open their namesake gourmet pizzeria. Thankfully, the couple was drawn to Cary’s revived downtown and superb quality of life.
First, some backstory: Zach grew up in an Italian family that operated various fine-dining restaurants. He and Amber met at culinary school in their native Pittsburgh. As both paid their dues working in eateries from New York to Raleigh to Durham, over time each burgeoning chef benefited from opportunities to serve alongside renowned restaurateurs Mario Batali and Andrew Carmellini.
Pizzeria Faulisi, which opened in March, represents the fulfillment of a longtime aspiration for its owners.
“After working for other people for so long, we wanted to settle down and have a place we could call our own,” said Zach. “We’re not trying to change the world. We just want to keep things simple and serve pizza the way we like to make it.”
The restaurant anchors the new 25,000-square-foot Mid-Town Square professional building in downtown Cary. Floor-to-ceiling windows and industrial-chic furnishings provide a relaxed, modern vibe for guests. Cement flooring, walnut-topped tables and an open, front-and-center kitchen enhance the laid-back atmosphere.
The dining room seats fewer than 50 people, but tables are spaced just right.
“We capped the seating at 42 because that is how many the restaurant can seat comfortably without overcrowding,” Amber said.
To finance their new venture, Zach and Amber sought backing from local allies.
“We have 11 different partners and investors,” Zach said. “There are framed pictures of them hanging on the wall as a reminder of those who believe in us.”
Zach said the town of Cary also was exceedingly supportive from day one.
“That was really humbling and encouraging,” he said.
Once the doors opened for business, word of mouth spread quickly. No doubt people heard about the pizzeria’s straightforward culinary processes like using freshly milled whole-wheat flour from Raleigh’s Boulted Bread. On any given day, Amber typically handles making the dough and prepping additional elements, while Zach oversees meal service.
Thin-crusted, 13-inch pizzas are cooked in an exquisite Stefano Ferrara wood-burning oven imported from Naples, Italy.
Each brick for the oven was hand-laid, Amber says. Fueled by kiln-dried hickory and oak, the oven maintains an average temperature of 800 degrees and bakes pies in only 90 seconds.
Among the half dozen specialty pizzas are sublime lemon-infused bianco with mozzarella and arugula; Margherita with tomato, mozzarella and basil; and salumi, which encompasses hot soppressata (salami), mozzarella and Asiago cheese.
“It’s our take on Neapolitan-style pizza, and the wheat flour adds a maltiness to the crust,” Zach said. “We spent a year trying different tomatoes to find the best one available. The mozzarella is from Wisconsin, and it’s the best of all the varieties we tasted. We thought through everything so we could make one of the simplest foods in the world as good as it can be.”
The pizza typically arrives tableside with traces of blackness around the blistered crust’s edges.
“Don’t be afraid of the char,” Amber advised with soft-spoken authority. “It actually gives the crust more flavor.”
Additional menu fare involves antipasti such as pickled vegetables, local lettuce and oregano-laden ricotta gnocchi.
Sustainably grown produce is sourced from Durham’s Funny Girl Farm, Hillsborough’s Vera Luce Farm and Nourishing Acres, a certified organic farm in Orange County’s Cedar Grove.
“Whenever you buy from local farmers, you have to work with what’s available,” Amber said. “We get the best seasonal items we can find.”
House-made dessert is an absolute must. Mascarpone-filled tiramisu arrives in a bowl and features ladyfingers dipped in cold-brew coffee. Cannoli stuffed with ricotta comes tinged with pistachio, Amarena cherry, orange and lemon zest.
A full-service bar offers a focused assortment of domestic beers plus wine from Italy, France and California.
“Our bar isn’t highbrow or lowbrow,” said Zach. “We’ve developed four or five specialty cocktails, and we have a good selection of vermouths with different flavor profiles.”
A family table is available for groups of up to 12 people and may be reserved in advance online.
“We basically deliver a parade of everything we do, including salads, antipasti and pizza,” Amber explained. Cost for the family meal is $30 a person excluding beverages.
Pizzeria Faulisi is open Wednesday through Saturday with dinner service only, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Sundays are typically easy, breezy days when we cook pancakes in the oven, pizzas with egg on them and offer brunch punch,” Zach said.
Since the restaurant tends to be busy most evenings, carryout orders may be limited. Pizzeria Faulisi does not have a phone, so you’ll need to visit the restaurant to place an order. Better yet, consider going when you can dine in and enjoy the full experience.
215 E. Chatham St., Suite 101, Cary