Food & DrinkFood Features

Pizza Baby Flops in Attempt at NY-Style Pizza in Charlotte

An detailed critique of the pie's floppy dough

A photo of a very floppy pizza with the cheese falling off.
Pizza Baby cheese pull. (Photo by Rico Marcelo)

For most of Dry January 2024, I kept my mouth shut.

Please do not mistake this for my jumping onto that ghastly trend of (gasp!) not drinking adult beverages for an entire month after Santa Claus comes to town and then complaining about it the entire time on social media. 

New year, new me? You’ll certainly see a new me if I am denied drink, whether by myself or by TikTok. That doesn’t make me an alcoholic. That makes me a realist.

That also makes me a better person, which is what I tell myself to rationalize that decision to wait. Why start a new year with negativity? Let the temporary teetotalers take care of that. Their online whining will be loud enough to drown out even the most internal, crying and desperate need of mine to admonish. 

New year, new me? Well, at least until February rolls around. And even then it’s always a coin toss at what happens next: will he or won’t he? I mean the groundhog, of course. And in case you all missed it, the furry little beast awoke from his long winter slumber this year to inform the world of an early spring, as for once he did not see his shadow.

Which works out well for me, you see, as I’ve kept my mouth shut all this time, and I am here to bring shade. Please do not mistake this relief for pleasure.

Does the oncologist take pleasure in telling a patient that they’re terminal? Does the officer on duty enjoy knocking on a door with news of a terrible crash? Does the food critic (hi, that’s me!) relish in finding just the right turn of phrase to explain why a certain food is just no good?

You have three months to live. There were no survivors. 

Had Justice Samuel Alito tried the pizza at Pizza Baby in Wesley Heights, then he may have steered the court to rule differently. Information, nevertheless painful to convey, but all the more important for you to hear. The Charlotte pizza scene is a treacherous one, dear readers. For your own safety, you must read on.

The New York-style pizza

From the outside, at least, Pizza Baby makes sense.

At first glance, it is an industrial brick block of a building sunken in along Thrift Road, presenting like Wesley Heights’ version of the Parthenon, visible at all times from any of that neighborhood’s most popular haunts. 

A few hours at the brewery and looking for the next stop? Had enough twee tapas from overpriced tasting menus and in need of something more substantial? So over wedding reception planning and desperately on the lookout for carbs? 

Just walk outside and turn toward the light: Pizza Baby beckons.

But like most new places in Charlotte, a new restaurant can’t just simply exist; it has to have a story to go along with it. 

The story at Pizza Baby, or so I’m told, has something to do with wanting to bring authentic NY-style pizza to Charlotte; marvel how the owners worked their way through countless iterations of dough recipes until they found just the one that would result in the floppy slices of NY-style pizza dreams.

In my mind, there are two problems with this.

One, Pizza Baby’s so-called concept is inherently flawed. NY-style pizza is many things to many people — both to bona fide New Yorkers and to the tourists who like to say they have lived there — but it is not, for the love of all things sacred in the world of food, floppy. 

A photo of two small pizza pie's in Wesley Heights
Pizza Baby menu selections. (Photo by Rico Marcelo)

Not for nothing, I spent part of Dry January in New York with friends, and I certainly didn’t squander the chance to confirm my thesis. 

At lunch one day at Stretch Pizza, legendary American chef Wylie Dufresne’s new pizza joint near Madison Square Park, I asked the staff what they thought of someone describing NY-style pizza as “floppy.” None of the answers I got are suitable for print, and it’s only with some luck that I made it out of there alive.

But, to be fair, there is always the OG-version of what something should be, and another version, that of an outsider looking in, of short-term memory, of trying to recapture something that was so perfect just a moment long ago. 

Memory is a tricky thing, though. I certainly don’t remember NY-style pizza as floppy, which is why I fly to the source to ask. Pizza Baby co-owners Trey Wilson and Steven De Falco, on the other hand, apparently do, so they opened a restaurant. 

This, in case it wasn’t clear, is me trying to give Pizza Baby the benefit of the doubt: “floppy,” oh yes, but have you achieved or failed at what you set out to do when the dough is so floppy that diners question whether or not it’s raw?

The other problem, which I find to be far worse and much more offensive to the good sense average diners bring to new restaurants along with wallets ready to be emptied and stomachs to be filled, is this: Charlotte diners deserve better than places that push concept over taste.

It’s bad enough that diners in this town are at the mercy of influencers and rogue PR pros who live for the easily digestible and retweetable sound bites. Throw in an “authentic” and a harrowing COVID-19 subplot and you’re guaranteed to go viral. But when did letting the food speak for itself stop being enough to create buzz in Charlotte? At around the same time, I think, as the reel took the place of everything real.

More to the point, if you’re going to use social media to trick Charlotteans into thinking that you’re serving something as sacred as NY-style pizza, then at least make it taste good.

Dissecting the menu

There’s no reason that the “Fun Guy” couldn’t have done more for the palate than just let it down. Topped with roasted mushrooms and mushroom cream as well as thin slices of mortadella, it was a pizza poised for pizzazz — had it not been so woefully under seasoned. 

Only at Pizza Baby have I found it impossible to tell the difference between mortadella and a mushroom.

“Mother,” in an unfortunate Hitchcockian way, is worse. It’s wearing its ingredients as a costume: mozzarella with tomatoes and parmesan that might resemble the real thing but taste like papier-mâché. 

Worse yet, the globs of cheese just sitting there in the sauce have the uncanny resemblance of faces sliced off and thrown on the ground as the good Christian kids in the ’80s horror movies of yore were wont to do after losing their virginities in a log cabin. This is a costume, yes, from the worst B movie imagined. 

And it’s not just the pizzas. But it’s mostly the cheese. Fonduta is a ghastly creation, one that I’ve suffered through thrice just to make sure I wasn’t being a dick. It presents as a fondue might be expected to, but then again so does, to some extent, wallpaper paste. 

A photo of burrata and shareables.
Burrata at Pizza Baby. (Photo by Rico Marcelo)

In fact, as tasteless and oddly textured as it was (squishy, and when is melted cheese ever described with that adjective?) it would better be used as wallpaper paste in the dining room should the owners ever decide to cover up those cold concrete walls.

If that weren’t bad enough, then there is also burrata. Again, if Charlotte social media were to be believed, the burrata at Pizza Baby is the dish du jour omg #hashtag. Instead it is a rather puzzling thing indeed. 

It looks like something someone might be inclined to eat, adorned on the plate as it is with pistachio pesto and tomatoes, but I defy you to tell me that you can taste any of those ingredients. 

Day-old chewing gum has more complexity and certainly more flavor. But worse than day-old chewing gum, the burrata here feels curdled, nay gritty, in the mouth. It is altogether unpleasant to eat.

Even the stronger pizzas on the menu are no match for cheese with textures that shouldn’t be found in cheese. 

Newer to the menu is “Smokin’ Kale,” the rare pizza here that lives up to social media hype. The kale, mind you, was an afterthought, but one I could ignore because of that wonderful calabrian cream. It was so smoky that it was almost metallic, giving off heat in all the right ways, but damned if it wasn’t let down by cheese that had melted down into a bubbly, unctuous and most unfortunate texture. 

Which is to say nothing of the floppy crust – I was lucky to get a single bite before everything flopped off onto the table and into oblivion.

To an even greater degree, I loved the “Rosemary” because the flavors were so alive and even ravishing. The pure taste of rosemary here hits instantly, in a shock, like amphetamine, though like a good bottle of poppers, it lingers long and hot. 

This is thanks to hot honey and pecorino, which knock about rosemary into sweet, spicy, and then savory and earthy directions. It is multidimensional, and yet concentrated. Under the right light or mobile phone flash, red onion and pistachio pesto make the entire pizza appear like the height of couture from the House of Gucci. 

But then you have to eat it, which by that point, you’ve learned to forgo the crust and just scrape off the toppings, but have you noticed how truly difficult it is to scrape things off cheese?

Worst case scenario, I’d suggest downing a few cocktails from the list to wash away the memories you had of the time right before entering Pizza Baby, when you were still hopeful that NY-style pizza could at last be enjoyed here in the QC, but not because they’re impeccably made. 

No, because between the margarita and the classic “Last Word,” there is so much lime juice in both that the acidity works like an industrial solvent to strip the pain away. 

Chefs rolling pizza dough in the back of house.
Line chefs cooking at Pizza Baby. (Photo by Rico Marcelo)

They made my tongue hurt. The pizzas, well, they made my soul hurt.

Don’t we get to expect more from a restaurant serving pizza that can cost $30 after tax? 

There used to be a time when the answer was yes. Hell, there used to be a time when the question was unthinkable. 

Something is rotten in the city of Charlotte, that it’s come to this — pizza that is an affront to common sense. Maybe we’re growing way too fast for our own good and the resulting economic turmoil is making us all collectively forget that $30 pizza should also be edible. 

My rent just increased 20%, so I’m in the unfortunate position of no longer being able to take food gambles. And perhaps this is the weakness that influencers in this town exploit — follow me for more awesome food recs, I have 30,000 followers, how could I be wrong? Start with requiring them to attest that they’ve actually eaten the food, and just like that, the influencer population is cut in half.

Read more: At Restaurant Constance, Sam Diminich Cooks Like His Life Depends on It

Because how else to describe the mere existence of a place like Pizza Baby? A social media star whose food no one in social media has apparently ever tasted. 

It’s a disservice both to Charlotte and to her diners, so much so that I’m left questioning everything new on the restaurant scene. What’s your motive? What are you tricking me into buying now? Hashtag sus.

This is a far gentler way of saying, “Burn it all down,” or better yet, and certainly more apropos,

“Throw this baby out with the bathwater.”

Then again, bathwater might be exactly what the dough at Pizza Baby really needs.

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  1. You know it may be a true review but seems a very harsh. wouldn’t it be better to not review allowing the public to decide? So many businesses go under because of a review this bad. Very disappointed in your decision to write. In my opinion as a writer the author wants to flex their writing muscles like a jobber pro wrestler would do before geting squashedby a main eventer.. I give this article a F. Doubt I would ever trust their opinion.

  2. Being from Chicago, I thought I found a Chicago tavern style pizza spot which is thin with a crisp crust and cut into squares. It was called Crust, and looking at the photos, I thought I found my Chicago pizza nirvana. Then I bit into it.

    It was the worst pizza I have eaten since moving to Charlotte in September of 2019 and it wasn’t even close. The texture was really strange and the taste, or should I say lack of taste was so disappointing.

    Nothing else I ate was bad. Some were better than others, but everything was edible and nothing came close to Crust.

  3. Who taught this guy to write? This was one of the most painful things to read, full of jargon and also unnecessary hate for a small business that only opened recently. Wonder who hurt him and also who his high school English teacher was because he needs to go retake that class.

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth! Who taught this guy to write? After digging my way through the pretentious prose, I gather he liked neither the cheese nor the crust.

  4. This is the 1st bad review that i have read about Pizza Baby. Starting off the whole thing by talking about “Dry January” and going on about drinking or not drinking really didn’t have anything to do with, well, pretty much anything. I am still going to check the place out because this is the only bad review i have seen so far, and this whole article was just drawn out and off the point and could have done without all the random ramblings the author went on about.

  5. I’ve heard such wonderful things about Pizza Baby that I’m eagerly anticipating my upcoming dining experience there. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, this negative review feels somewhat unnecessary. As the saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” and it’s important to consider the impact on a local small business. Rather than solely critiquing, perhaps offering constructive feedback would be more beneficial, allowing the owners to refine their offerings. Additionally, mentioning the quality of service received would provide a more comprehensive evaluation. For those considering trying this locally owned restaurant, I encourage you to form your own opinion on the food and overall experience.

  6. Pizza Baby is literally my favorite pizza spot in Charlotte and even my favorite amongst some popular NY pizza places. Terrible review

  7. Floppy or not – this pizza is excellent (coming from a former NYC resident), and far better than 99% of pizza places in charlotte. Do not let this review dissuade you from going there. Everything we’ve ordered from there has been excellent!

    1. It takes such fortitude and perseverance to get to a point of opening your own business. It takes balls to become a small business owner.

      Here we have the ‘critic’ with no balls at all. Who creates NOTHING and can only exist talking about the actual work others are doing.

      This isn’t really about the pizza and is it good or bad, this is about a brutal, cruel and horribly written takedown of a small loval business.

      I likely speak for many Charlottonians when I say we wish you had gone to NYC Timothy and just stayed there.

  8. Do you even edit, bro?? Talk about rambling… pathetic and obtuse review designed to denigrate the new local business of someone he must have an issue with. I thoroughly enjoyed Pizza Baby and will go back.

  9. Wants to rip a Charlotte pizza place and then quotes servers at Wylie’s pizza place in NY to see what a NY pizza place is all about. You sound like Michael Scott saying his favorite NY slice is Sbarro.

    You should be better than this QC Nerve

  10. Tim, get another job as writing DEFINITELY isn’t your calling. That whole article just smells of self-righteous entitlement and alienates you from the reader. Get a grip.

  11. The writer is either the most discerning pizza aficionado on the planet, or he’s just a dick. I vote for dick. I have eaten pizza in New York many times and I have eaten at Pizza Baby and really enjoyed it. I don’t know how many degrees of floppy there are but I’ve never had a New York pizza that wasn’t folded and where I didn’t have to hold the bottom for the first bite. I would describe that as floppy. As far as I am concerned this review is a flop.

  12. What a pretentious, nasty review.

    “Day-old chewing gum has more complexity and certainly more flavor”. Grow up, critics like this are the worst.

  13. This was a great and honest review. I wish this guy would review all the trendy/ wanna be influencer infested joins in town and tell it like it is.

  14. He is doing a job. He’s decided his schtick is somewhere between Gordon Ramsey and Gordon Ramsey with autism. The review might be legit, but the author is a dishrag dipped in a tincture made of self loathing and self importance.

  15. It took you 250+ words to even mention the restaurant, and then you put out the worst review I have ever read. You should be fired for blatantly letting some personal vendetta you have against them dictate your review, which is nauseating to read through by the way.

    Get a new job. Writing is not you’re strong suit. Clearly being a self-righteous dick is though.

  16. You clearly have some serious issues that need to be addressed. Did it ever occur to you that people have different palates with food, just like with wine or beer? Not sure why you feel the need to eviserate Pizza Baby, their owners and staff, but we love the food and the people (as do our friends) and will continue to eat there. This goes way beyond a normal restaurant critique. Perhaps you should look into getting the help you need. I now know I don’t need to waste my time reading any article you write….thank you for that! Sorry to cut this short, but we are on our way to Pizza Baby for dinner!! Oh, and qcnerve can do better, they should get rid of you. I won’t be reading any of their garbage from here on out given that they condone your nastiness.

  17. I stopped reading after the 10th paragraph where I was just skipping everything they wanted to say to try and get to facts about the pizza. I honestly did read further of the review because this article was so non-appealing to read. I’ll go there myself and make my decision.

    Why do you need to write a story this long just to rip a small business to shreds?? Do better.

  18. As humans, we are bias, so I’ve asked AI what does it think about article and writer:

    “The review of Pizza Baby in Charlotte is written with a mix of professional critique and personal flair. The reviewer demonstrates a strong command of language and a willingness to engage in vivid, sometimes hyperbolic descriptions. However, there are elements of the review that could be seen as unprofessional, such as the extensive personal anecdotes and tangents.

    Psychologically, the reviewer comes across as someone who is unafraid to express their opinions bluntly and seem somewhat disillusioned with trends and social media influence. Their tone suggests a level of cynicism and skepticism towards establishments that prioritize concept over taste. They may also have a somewhat elitist attitude towards food, expecting a certain level of refinement and excellence, especially considering the price point.

    In conclusion, while the review is written with flair and provides detailed criticism, the extensive personal anecdotes and occasional tangents detract from its professionalism. The reviewer’s psychological profile suggests someone who is discerning and skeptical of trends.”

    My personal note on all this – Timothy, why do you hate Charlotte community so much? It is not our fault that your rent went 20% up…

  19. Fake News….
    We have tried almost every pizza place in Charlotte.
    Pizza Baby is our favorite. Do not let this article sway you…give it a shot.

  20. Yes, a bit of pointless rambling, but I actually liked the honest review. Seems people today feel the need to be coddled and told everything is sprinkles and glitter but then get pissy because someone said something honest and didnt a**kiss. Today, the overly sensitive can’t accept that people have different opinions, and that is actually okay.
    Thank you, sir, for giving yours and not giving in to the fluttery, cold, white things falling from the sky. I applaud someone actually being honest.

  21. This review is that of an absolute failure of a human being. The only reason we have ever heard of you is because of Pizza Baby and the damn good people and food they bring to Charlotte. No one gives a thought about your sober January and horrid attempt at literary bullying. There are plenty of good examples of food critics who don’t like restaurants and make that point without demeaning, rambling nonsense, and just sounding like a loser. You don’t deserve this job and karma will take care of you. Super excited for future of Pizza Baby!

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