Pizzeria Toro reopened last Thursday after recovering from a debilitating chimney fire. Their massive, front-and-center cylindrical wood-fired oven is now back in business.
Located on a downtown corner in Five Points, Durham, Toro’s dining space, set with communal tables and wooden swivel seats on colored concrete flooring, presents a somewhat European feel. Along one wall, long shelves are stocked with Italian food/cooking products and wine. The space has a cool urban feel, but for some reason, those chairs remind me of school days.
At the head of Toro’s open space there is a beautiful wood-fired oven, set off by spot-lit shelves stacked with wood. To the right, a kitchen so open, it feels as if pizzas are created table-side. The scene is just flat out fun to watch.
We had dinner at Pizzeria Toro before the fire. Hmmm, guess this means we’ll have to go back just to be sure the oven’s working correctly . . .
Owner/Chef Gray Brooks builds “minimalist” menus that change according to what’s fresh, available, and interesting. Expect the unexpected. For instance, listed on the menu under Pizza (Red): Spicy Lamb Meatballs, Rapini, Cacio di Roma – $16. If you don’t speak Italian or recognize ingredients, you have two choices; ask, or take a chance. My vote – take a chance. Don’t think there’s any way to go wrong here.
By the way, I’ve listed each pizza as it appeared on the menu, including bolding the same word(s). My suggested technique would be to scan for a main ingredient (bold), then read the details, such as they are.
Order a pie for yourself, or order multiple pies and share. This next red pie is listed on the menu as: Sweet Fennel Sausage, Roasted Peppers, Provolone – $14.
And finally, a white pizza: Soft Egg, Old North Durham Oyster Mushrooms, Arugula – $14.
Each pie offered a different slightly smokey riot of flavors, accentuated by that delicious crisp-chewy crust. Truly artisan.
Partnering with Gray are his wife, Cara Stacy, and Jay Owens. Brooks and Owens previously worked together at top restaurants in Seattle. Cara manages front-of-the-house while Owens is Bar Manager.
Bar? Invisable from Toro’s dining area, get to the bar by walking toward the shop’s business end, then take a left just before the oven. Or enter from outside through a door off the rear parking lot. It’s a full service bar in a cute space with clean lines. Food’s available along with Italian wines, draft and bottled beer, and cocktails.
As I took pictures, trying not to capture faces without permission, the gentleman pictured below struck up a conversation, saying he’d love to be in the shot. Here you go, friendly guy.
PIC and I both loved Pizzeria Toro’s casual feel. It’s all about food minus pretense here.
Next time, if it’s still on the menu, I’m definitely getting Antipasti – Roasted Beets, Caramelized Anchovy, Pistachios! One can only imagine . . .