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Pizzeria Toro

Posted by DID 9 Oct 2012 21 Comments

After a week or so of soft openings, Pizzeria Toro is officially open for business. On a dreary fall evening, Pizzeria Toro with its open wood-fire oven instantly became our new favorite spot in town. Despite a somewhat stark decor, Pizzeria Toro is warm and welcoming thanks to the large oven and a lot of wood, most of which was salvaged from the building and used in the tables. In a unique L shape, the main dining room and bar are separated by a hall and the kitchen. The bar has a separate entrance on the other side of the building. Unlike the main dining room, the bar does have a TV and would make an excellent spot to catch a game.

Owner Gray Brooks grew up in Durham, worked at Pepper’s and Crook’s Corner  (both in Chapel Hill) before moving to Seattle where he worked under Tom Douglas for 12 years. His expertise and experience show in Pizzeria Toro’s first week. The food and service were both top notch.

Pizzeria Toro has a relatively small menu with antipasti plates, hams, 10 pizzas divided into red and white and a few salads that will all change seasonally. Not yet open a week, Pizzeria Toro’s kale salad has already earned a reputation for converting all into kale lovers. Raw kale tossed with a lot of parmesan, pine nuts and spicy peppers, it is truly excellent. We also tried the roasted pumpkin and pesto, which is served cold. It was good but I’m not sure I’d choose it again. While the cheesy pesto was of course tasty and the presentation lovely, the cold pumpkin just wasn’t my thing.

For a table of three, we chose two pizzas – one from the red list and one from the white list. We chose the spicy lamb meatball and the mushroom. The crust on both had a nice tooth and that signature charring, offering that rare combo of crispy bite and satisfying chewiness. The lamb meatball was the table favorite, the rich lamb meatiness balanced with bitter greens and fresh tomato sauce. The mushroom (with foraged chanterelles) is a white pizza loaded with cheese and designed to let the quality of the mushrooms really shine. It was cheesy and satisfying, I’m just a sucker for tomato sauce. Each pizza is six slices and we did have a few slices leftover.

Pizzeria Toro has a pretty interesting looking cocktail menu, a large selection of Italian bottled beers, a few local draughts, and a curated wine menu. Draught beers are served by the half liter.

Normally in a restaurant’s opening weeks/months, I’d just do a quick post with a few pics to entice folks. But Pizzeria Toro even in its infancy delivered on all counts. With its relaxed atmosphere, dedication to the ingredients, inviting bar – Pizzeria Toro is a welcome addition to Durham’s dining scene and the newly bustling Five Points.

Pizzeria Toro
105 E. Chapel Hill Street
11am-11pm daily



  • Tad Hunt said:

    Went here for lunch yesterday afternoon. You are dead on correct about the atmosphere and while there was a little bit of sticker shock at the prices, the pizza I had was one of the best in recent memory. Seriously, it was that good.

    The service was slightly iffy (my friend distinctly said “No” to another coke and she promptly brought another one out opened. She took a long time dividing our check after I told from the outset that they would be two separate checks.) but I sure that will get ironed out quickly as they get their systems in place. She was very warm and kind regardless.

    All in all a great visit and the food… again, it was a REAL treat! Absolutely worth it!


  • Jonn said:

    Was there any mention of lunch specials? I would like to stop in for pizza during the day but at $12-15 that’s a pretty steep lunch.


  • BobK said:

    Do they plan to offer pizza by the slice at any point in the future. I work in Downtown Durham and would love to drop in for lunch. (Un)fortunately, I don’t often need to eat a whole pizza, so by-the-slice would be a good option for people like me who often dine alone.

    Also, what’s the deal with the rooftop deck. Is that open for people to eat on, or is it just a special event/cool gimmick thing?


    Sant replies on October 12th, 2012 at 9:03 pm:

    They don’t have lunch specials. I asked about pizza by the slice and they said they wouldn’t compromise on their quality that way. At first glance it may seem more expensive but it’s not that much more. A pizza runs $12-15 and is large enough to feed 2 people, so $6-$7.50 a person. For comparison, Randy’s Pizza offers two slices and a drink for $5.99 and Lily’s does the same for around $6.50. I’d rather have Toro’s pizza with water. If time is an issue simply call ahead.


    Rob replies on October 13th, 2012 at 12:47 pm:

    I got to try this place last week and I loved it. I didn’t get a single bad item.

    I don’t think I would head there for lunch, though. If there’s no lunch menu or lunch special, then that’s the end of that. They have a fantastic dinner menu, but a dinner menu is not a lunch menu.


  • Diana Bello said:

    Ok, so I’m Gray’s mom…nonetheless, I have been waiting for three years for this to come into being. I had the pleasure of eating his pizzas for several years in Seattle and I’m not a pizza lover, but I do love this kind of pizza. I could eat the mushroom one every single day and not get tired of it.

    Great review…and I agree. Hope everyone will get in there and try out this fabulous stuff in this incredibly beautiful space. Having said that I’m the mom, I will also add that I am the “proud mama” of Gray and his wife, Cara, and their other partner, Jay Owens. They make a heck of a team!

    Don’t mind bragging a little! (-:


    Jessica Sheets replies on October 18th, 2012 at 7:16 pm:

    Looking forward to trying it out soon!!! Won’t be afraid to name drop :)


  • Bruce Friedman said:

    Tried it! Loved it ! I’ll be back! Wonderful staff, beautiful, bright/fresh atmosphere and building. Can you order from the bar ? :)


  • TSQ75 said:

    I’d like to try it at some point, but i wont be rushing out to it. the menu is a bit fancier than I like from my pizzerias, but hey, i’m just one person. I’d also like to see some by the slice offerings, but I cant say it looks like what he’s going for. I wish him and the other new inhabitants of Five points the best of luck (not that I was pining for a cupcake bar, but more power to em)


  • tastee said:

    ^^that guy is such an eeyore^^ he needs a hug


  • fredfesel said:

    i would suggest rather than by the slice [which would not work for a wood fired pizza ] that they consider a personal size pizza for lunch which they could charge six dollars , keep people comming and good advertizing for a dinner comeback. maybe some pizza and salad combos., maintain quality and welcomming . its always good to be flexible rather than the highway. thanks


  • Sant said:

    Have eaten there twice now and loved it both times. Easily the best pizza in the Triangle– although I haven’t tried Bella Mia in Cary yet. One pizza easily satisfies two people, so at $12-15 per pizza, that’s $6-7.50 per person. Heck, I dropped close to $8 at my last visit to Arby’s! If you’re in a hurry, call in your order before you head over there.


  • Joe said:

    Sorry but this place doesn’t fly with me. I don’t want to sound cheap but $13.00 for a 13 inch pizza is ridiculous for Durham. I asked the waitress if we can choose our toppings and she said she would have to be creative and there would be an up charge for each topping. I don’t understand how they can justify this and not want to cater to what a customer wants and give them choices. I have been all over this country so if you want to call yourself a pizzeria then offer the customer the choices they deserve. The menu is certainly nothing big so I can’t see how a kitchen could not provide the choices you want. When I asked if we could add those additional items the waitress looked at me like I was nuts and hesitated. I suggest the owner take a trip up north and see how a real pizzeria runs.
    Didn’t care much for the atmosphere, nothing screams of pizzeria in any sense of the word. Too bad since I was excited in thinking that maybe a decent pizzeria done right may have been coming to Durham with maybe the right atmosphere but this places misses the mark. maybe this is the way pizzerias are in the Northwest but with so many transplants from the northeast in this area this was disappointing.


    Mike Hill replies on December 1st, 2012 at 1:32 pm:

    Yeah, you do sound cheap!


    Joe replies on December 3rd, 2012 at 10:47 am:

    Yeah well you may think I’m cheap but not a fool with his money. It’s pizza for God’s sake not gourmet. They may want to call it that so they can justify charging this much.


    Mike Hill replies on December 3rd, 2012 at 12:50 pm:

    Oh I don’t “think” your cheap…


  • RRG said:

    Im with you on that Joe…We went,and its close to the best pizza in Durham. With the cost and lack of options I just dont feel like I have to hurry back…Its a pizza place, why does everything new in Durham have to try to be high-end? If they relaxed abit, this place would rock.


  • ALA said:

    I recently had the lettuce soup, and it was fantastic. The pizza was great too. I wasn’t crazy about the seating. We had to sit very close to two ladies who were very loud, so it was uncomfortable.


  • joefood said:

    i really really like this pizza. and i grew up outside of New Haven – i know my pizza!


    mrflyingwetnose replies on December 11th, 2012 at 5:32 pm:

    joefood: so, are you a Sally’s guy or a Pepe’s guy?


    bob replies on June 6th, 2013 at 4:06 pm:

    You an joe don’t know pizza. New Haven is coal fired oven pizza and has nothing to do with the shity looking Neapolitan pie this new place obviously knows nothing about.
    Their pizza is an insult to a perfectly good WFO (wood fired oven for you know it all’s).
    Enjoy wasting your money!


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