Raleigh, N.C. — Chicken and waffle pizza, decadent waffles, spicy skillets and more highlight the new brunch menu at Pizza La Stella in downtown Raleigh.
Known for its wood-fired oven pizzas and specialty wings, the restaurant has taken a playful and flavorful approach to its brunch offerings, including a mix of breakfast pizzas. Our server, Kierra, helped us navigate the menu, which also included a large selection of cocktails.
My taste-testers and I tried out the Chicken and Waffles 'Za, which is made using a cinnamon and sugar dough and topped with apple-soaked chicken, scrambled eggs, pancetta, maple black pepper syrup and powered sugar. This pizza didn't have the waffle as much as it had the chicken and sweet black pepper syrup. So you got the chicken and sweetness, just not the waffle flavor. Still pretty addictive.
We tried two wood-fried skillets - the Sicilian and Bloody Mary's Revenge. The Sicilian is filled with Italian sausage and scrambled eggs. You really get the punch from the roasted red peppers and cherry tomatoes.
The Bloody Mary's Revenge is very spicy, but very good. The bloody mary vodka sauce is kicked up with jalapenos and Calabrian peppers. The Italian sausage and fried eggs help soak up some of the spice. Definitely ask for extra focaccia bread.
If sweet is what you are after, Pizza La Stella is serving a selection of Smash Waffles. The Greenville-based gourmet waffle company is operating out of the La Stella kitchen until its brick-and-mortar shop opens in downtown Raleigh later this year. The dough-based waffles are served at the restaurant for brunch and available by delivery anytime through Postmates.
To get the full waffle experience, I sampled three creations - The Chip Chip Hooray, The Campfire and the Southerner Waffle-wich.
The Chip Chip is their take on a chocolate chip waffle, featuring cookie butter, chocolate drizzle and powdered sugar. Despite the list of ingredients, the waffles were not overly sweet and had the right balance of chocolate without being over the top. The waffles themselves are sturdy enough to be picked up and eaten like a doughnut, which is what I ended up doing.
The Campfire was my favorite Smash Waffle. My taste-testers who joined me on this adventure were in Nutella heaven with these waffles, which were topped with burnt marshmallow, graham cracker crumbles and powdered sugar. This waffle was definitely sweeter, but satisfied my need for marshmallows for breakfast.
The Southerner waffle-wich was my other favorite dish of the morning. Two sandwiches are made using cheddar stuffed Smash Waffles. Then, topped with La Stella's pulled pork, a fried egg, barbecue sauce and pickled red onion. Don't try to cut this and eat it with a knife and fork. It is messy, but pick it up with your hands. You have to taste all of the elements together to get the full "wow" factor. The savory waffle is the perfect foil to the sweet and smoky barbecue pork and fried egg, And when it starts to soak into the waffle, you just get this great blend of crunchy sweetness.
The brunch cocktail menu is also filled with Bloody Mary's, mimosas, sangria, margaritas and a specialty cocktail titled Breakfast in Bed, which comes with a French Toast Crunch garnish. I would have more on the drink menu, but I decided to eat my calories instead of drink them at brunch. Guess I've got a reason to go back.