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Located just off the coast of South Carolina, the tourists' paradise of Hilton Head Island is best known for two things: golf courses and restaurants. But even with roughly six restaurants per square mile of land, Hilton Head isn't renowned for any one type of cuisine... and it's certainly not considered a pizza hotbed. But Paulie's Coal Fired Pizza is trying to change that perception.
Having opened in late summer 2010 (the first location on the mainland in Bluffton has been around a bit longer), Paulie's is run by two Long Islanders who named the pizzeria after their little brother. Their twin anthracite-fired ovens made by EarthStone cook the pies at 800 degrees and leave telltale dark spots on the thin and crackly crust.
The heart of Paulie's Signature Pizza is a San Marzano base—the tomatoes are sauteed with garlic, oil, and seasonings—that's placed atop the pie while it cooks. It's then topped with basil and grated Pecorino Romano and presented as either a 12-inch small or 16-inch large. It's fresh and flavorful, with just the right proportions of zingy sauce and gooey cheese, and a slight ashy char underneath.
As exceptional as the Signature was, I was perhaps even more blown away by the sausage and pepperoni pie I ordered to placate my kids at the far end of the table. No mere kids' pizza, these most basic of toppings had complex flavors and were clearly indicative of a kitchen that puts heavy emphasis on top-notch ingredients as well as meticulous technique. Hilton Head may never be a serious pizza town, but it's good to know you can find a serious pizza there.
Paulie's Coal Fired Pizza
1034 William Hilton Pkwy, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928 (map)
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