MOORESVILLE – John and Wanda Redden, of Mooresville, have been eating at Pie in the Sky Pizza for 27 years – since the place first opened.
Their two children also grew up eating at the restaurant and now live in Virginia. However, they were recently in town for the Fourth of July and had to get a fix of the best pizza ever.
“My son said ‘You know this is wonderful. Some things never change. Good old Mooresville,’” Wanda Redden recalled, smiling at the memory.
Tim Whitener began Pie in the Sky Pizza in June 1986. He worked at a pizzeria in Hilton Head while on summer break from Davidson College, but he ended up in the lumber business for five years after graduation.
Then the space came up for sale in downtown Mooresville. Whitener went back to the man he worked for in Hilton Head.
“He gave me the recipes and said ‘good luck!’‘ he chuckles. “So I say if it’s good it’s his fault and if it’s bad, it’s mine.”
The restaurant is unassuming. The appearance is akin to a small school cafeteria, with florescent lights, formica tables, chairs with torn seats and linoleum floors.
But you can be sure that food is not the average lunch-line fare.
The dough and sauce are homemade. Whitener also stuffs the sausage and makes the meatballs. The salads are hand chopped with all fresh ingredients.
“This is time consuming,” Whitener said. “But if you own a restaurant, I believe you are supposed to make the food.”
On a random Monday, Whitener works alone. He chats with customers; rings up orders; and makes pizzas, salads and subs. It is a family place meaning many of his family members work or have worked here; and it is great for adults and kids alike.
There are some craft and domestic beers on tap and in bottles for those who enjoy some suds with their pie.
The restaurant also does a great take out business.
“We do a limited delivery,” Whitener said. “Most people just come on in to pick up their food if they want take-out.”
Although the restaurant features subs, salads, boneless chicken wings and even lasagna on Tuesdays, the star of the menu is clearly the pizza. The kitchen boasts a real pizza oven.
“I bought it used 27 years ago,” Whitener said. “So it must be vintage by now!”
The oven really allows the pizza to cook. There is no assembly-line pie-making going on here. The onions on the pizza are allowed to sweeten and slightly char. The crust is crispy and chewy with just a slight hint of sweet in the aftertaste. It is a perfect blend of flavors, not overly salted like many commercial pizzas.
The humble restaurants has a grand champion in NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“We were pretty much unheard of until Dale Jr. mentioned us in his book and then a Rolling Stone magazine article,” Whitener said. “It put us on the map and now we still get people from far away during race week.”
But perhaps the best recommendation of the joint is that Whitener is still chowing down pies 27 years later.
“We are closed on Sunday, and I’ll often make a pizza on Saturday night for us to eat,” he said. “After all these years, I’m still not tired of it!”