Charlotte Restaurants

“Not a restaurant… A pizza bakery.”

I’ve had my eye on Aliño Pizzeria for a few months now. You can easily tell from Instagram photos that they’ve got a serious pizza situation going on up in Mooresville. But in all honesty, I didn’t know if or when I’d ever make the trip there.

Two months ago, they opened a location in Concord Mills, so I knew I had no more excuses. Last night, we made the drive in not-so-horrible 5 o’clock traffic, and it was worth every second.

alino-beer

Aliño opened in a Mooresville mill two years ago and has been blessing the people with its authentic pizza since. Owner Michal Bay moved to the area to renovate the 130-year-old mill six years ago and became tired of the lifeless pizza he was eating with his crew. So much so that he offered to send roughly 11 friends to Italy to learn the tricks of the trade, then come back and open a pizzeria. They all said no.

alino-toscana
Toscana: sausage, San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, fresh garlic

So, Michal took things into his own hands and moved to Naples, Italy to work in a pizzeria and learn all the secrets. He came back, opened Aliño, and now receives imported ingredients from Italy to keep things as real as you can get (including fresh buffalo mozzarella, which arrives weekly and is amazing.)

Michal explained that Aliño is “not a restaurant. It’s a pizza bakery.” He admits that the restaurant business is hard and that he never planned to get into it. But business is going very well, as shown in the recent expansion to Concord and the Mall of Georgia in Buford, GA.

alino-caprese
Caprese: ripe tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil

Michal, who was born in Turkey, has traveled and lived all over the world. Flags adorn the tall walls to show respect for where he’s been. The walls are also lined with canned tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pasta, and more, plus pizza boxes for leftovers. The middle of the room is full of long, community-style tables made for sharing.

alino-inside

Here are more impressive ways that Aliño keeps it real:

  • First, THE PIZZA IS DELICIOUS. Thin crust on the bottom but fluffier and satisfying at the edges. Simple yet flavorful sauce, perfectly melted cheese… you get it.
  • They only serve 9 pizzas. No substitutions or “half and half” allowed.
  • Only one salad stays on the menu (Caprese) but they offer a daily alternative.
  • Their delicious gelato is made in-house.
  • The pizza is cooked in 60 seconds (no meat) or 90 seconds (with meat), so don’t be fooled by long lines. They move FAST.
  • Their ovens reach 1200 degrees and are made of volcanic sand and rock.
  • There is no freezer on site. Or cooker. Everything is refrigerated and baked.
  • You can order take out, but don’t expect to call in. Aliño has no telephone (hello, they cook pizzas in under 2 minutes!)
  • And to top it off, the gelato resides in a revolving contraption designed by Ferrari. Nice.

See what I mean?

alino-share

Michal and his crew showed extreme genuine hospitality, and you can tell they care about what they do.

As Michal told me, “Life is simple as long as you want to see it simple.”

Great advice by a fantastic pizza bakery leader.

More photos:

alino-tomatoes

alino-marg
Margherita: fresh buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh basil, fresh garlic

alino-toppings

alino-gelato
Creme Caramel gelato. Sigh.
alino-bellucci
Bellucci: Cremini mushrooms, caramelized Cipolline onion, fresh garlic, truffle oil (no sauce)
alino-salads
Italian Blue Salad (left): spring mix, blue cheese, honey-roasted pecans, blueberries, apricot vinaigrette. Roman Salad (right): spring mix, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, chick peas, mozzarella, housemade ranch dressing. *Both outstanding salads.*

alino-ovens

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