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Cape Fear Foodie: Pizza with Big Time flavor

Wilmington's Benny's Big Time Pizzeria has something on the menu for everyone...though you may...
Wilmington's Benny's Big Time Pizzeria has something on the menu for everyone...though you may not want to share.(WECT)
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 10:42 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Trying to come up with a favorite pizza place is like trying to pick your favorite band, each one brings something different to the table but they all make you smile.

So what is one to do when you’ve got that mozzarella and tomato sauce itch? Do you want chain delivery-style pizza? How about thin and crispy? New York-style? Chicago-style? The options are endless.

I’ve developed a short list over the years, and we will get to most if not all of them, but there is one place that serves up more than just quality pies... it has great appetizers, unique salads, tasty pasta dishes, homemade desserts and a refreshing bounty of craft cocktails, wines and draft beer.

One place I find myself visiting more than others is well-known to most but a stranger to many.

Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria.

Benny's Big Time Pizzeria is bucket list restaurant among Wilmington's bustling food scene.
Benny's Big Time Pizzeria is bucket list restaurant among Wilmington's bustling food scene.(WECT)

This staple on the Wilmington food scene is part of famed Chef Vivian Howard’s restaurant family and it’s still serving up great dishes since opening in 2017.

It’s a favorite for any occasion, wedding parties, families, date night... even the solo foodie looking for a perfectly made drink and a bite to eat.

Benny’s is housed in the end cap of what used to be the Block Shirt Factory in the hopping South Front District. It’s painted exterior entices people to take a selfie, but it’s what is on the inside that counts.

There are a variety of seating options depending on the size of your party, but I typically shoot for a seat at the bar. You can take in the sights and sounds of the kitchen and its wood fired brick oven while watching the bartenders whip up any number of eye-catching drinks.

"The Four Monte," a bourbon forward cocktail with a sweet punch.
"The Four Monte," a bourbon forward cocktail with a sweet punch.(WECT)

Once you’ve made your drink selection (say hello to Curtis while you’re at it), it’s time to get to business.

The pizza is the star, but it’s the supporting cast that takes Benny’s to the big time.

I’ve tried everything on the menu before and each item is worth your attention.

From wood fired bread with summer melon and Italian meats...

...to Southern Fried Chicken Parm...

Benny's Southern Fried Chicken Parm, a modern twist on the Italian classic.
Benny's Southern Fried Chicken Parm, a modern twist on the Italian classic.(WECT)

...to Scott’s Tots (fried balls of mozzarella cheese)...

You likely know where the name comes from, but these Scott's Tots have the flavor to stand on...
You likely know where the name comes from, but these Scott's Tots have the flavor to stand on their own...think cheese sticks but bite size.(WECT)

...and Eggplant Parm Fries, how could you go wrong?

A meal in itself, the Eggplant Parm Fries don't have wings, but they always fly off the plate.
A meal in itself, the Eggplant Parm Fries don't have wings, but they always fly off the plate.(WECT)

Order a few of them and have a meal from this alone, or grab one or two and save room for everything else on the menu.

If you want a salad, snag the Benny’s Caesar. It’s a slightly different take on the classic recipe, with some fried and raw Brussel sprouts tossed in.

Not your grandma's Caesar salad, this reinvention of the standard dish uses a variety of...
Not your grandma's Caesar salad, this reinvention of the standard dish uses a variety of Brussels sprouts to create layers of crunch.(WECT)

The pastas can vary depending on when you visit, but know that everything is made in house... down to the noodles and the sauces. It’s here that you can really taste the difference between fresh and from a can.

As for pizza, wood fired isn’t for everyone... that’s understandable... but give it a try. The variety of toppings sets Benny’s apart from the typical banana peppers and canned olives.

The Kevin McCallister (a cheese-only pizza of Home Alone fame with some hot honey to boast) is a favorite for most, but I typically throw old-world style pepperoni and hand cut mushrooms on it.

Kevin McCallister ordered his "lovely cheese pizza" from Little Nero's, but you can get a fancy...
Kevin McCallister ordered his "lovely cheese pizza" from Little Nero's, but you can get a fancy copycat from Benny's Big Time Pizzeria.(WECT)

There is even a gluten-free item that is Detroit-style (my favorite of all the city-style pizzas).

If by some miracle you find yourself in the envious position of being able to order a dessert, do so. This night, I tried the homemade mascarpone-based cheesecake with blueberry sauce. I promised myself I would only take one bite but it was so light and decadent I nearly ate the entire slice. If that’s not your thing, Benny’s often has a variety of gelatos they make in-house, and are sure to please nearly any taste (my personal favorite is the cherry chocolate chip).

Save room for dessert when dining at Benny's, each item like this homemade cheesecake should...
Save room for dessert when dining at Benny's, each item like this homemade cheesecake should not be missed.(WECT)

Look at your visit here like a pizza, and each item you choose is the topping for what is sure to culminate into a wonderful pie. Every time I visit I force myself to stray from my favorites on the menu and try something different (not something I do everywhere I go) and I always leave with a big time smile on my face.

I know you will too.

PRO TIPS:

1) Some ingredients on the pizza menu can be intimidating. So ask your server what a word means if you don’t immediately recognize “pecorino” or “n’duja.” Not only will you be more comfortable ordering a complex pie, you’ll leave feeling like a cultured pizza chef.

2) Whatever pizza you order, you MUST ask for Benny’s famous hot honey, freshly grated cheese and red pepper flakes. The combination takes any selection to the next level and the hot honey is so good that people have been known to steal it from the table.

3) Unlike dining in at most pizza joints, Benny’s allows reservations, so call ahead and get your party ready for a night of wood fired fun.

IF YOU GO:

Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria is located at 206 Greenfield St, Wilmington, NC 28401

Do you recommend a restaurant? Or know of a best kept secret that you want the rest of the Cape Fear to know about? Shoot me an email at corey.preece@gray.tv and I would love to feature your selection. Cheers!

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