Paulie's Original Coal Fired Pizza
Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: John Brackett
Some of the best business stories you hear are about the ones that started almost by accident. Like the guy who drops his phone in a lake and comes up with a great product idea, or when somebody messing around in the kitchen stumbles upon a successful restaurant concept. Andrew Carrabba’s account of Paulie’s Original Coal Fired Pizza is one of those stories, but with an added ingredient, the age-old question of where to find the world’s best pizza. By the way, the correct answer is Brooklyn, New York. If you hold a differing opinion, fuggedaboutit; you’re wrong.
“One day my brother Paulie said to my dad, ‘Let’s order pizza.’ He was talking about one of the national brands—I won’t mention which one—and he was going on and on about how great it was and how much he loved it,” said Carrabba. “My dad says, ‘Whoa, hold on a second!’ Being from Brooklyn, he grew up on great pizza.”
Apparently, the father was about to set the sons straight. Instead of ordering that national brand delivery pizza, Dad herded Andrew and his two brothers to the supermarket to buy fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, pizza dough and a baking stone, and they spent the evening making pizzas. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Over time me and my brother Matt figured out how to make pizza cooking it on the grill.” Trying out their concoctions on friends and family evoked the inevitable, “You should open a pizza place!” comments. “Everybody loved the pies,” Carrabba said. “We had the opportunity, so we opened the first Paulie’s in Bluffton.”
The Carrabbas wanted to bring their backyard recipe to the Paulie’s concept, so they installed anthracite coal-fired ovens in the kitchen. “We decided to use coal because it’s a clean burning fuel. It has no smoke, and it gives you a flavor that you can’t get from wood or gas. I think we’re the only ones in South Carolina using coal,” Carrabba said.
Interestingly enough, neither of the two brothers had any previous restaurant experience when they opened Paulie’s. There’s a lot more to the business than just baking the pies, so there was a big learning curve. “We went from working in construction for our father right into the restaurant business. It was like going from zero to a hundred miles an hour in no time. After five years, I still learn something new every day,” Carrabba said.
And, after five years of serving up coal-fired pizzas and other Carrabba family recipes, Paulie’s is ready to open two new locations, one on Hilton Head Island and one in Jacksonville, Florida. The island store—on 278 near the Sea Pines Circle—is scheduled to open for business in early July.
Carrabba says that we can expect the same great pizza and atmosphere as the Bluffton location, but there will be a few added wrinkles. By day, the new Paulie’s will be the family-friendly restaurant that we’ve come to know, but later in the evening when table service tends to wind down, it will be more of a destination nightspot.
“It’s the same concept. What’s different, though, is that the bar is twice as big. So we’ll be expecting larger bar crowds. At night we want to get that younger crowd. We’re going to be open until 2 a.m. on the weekends,” said Carrabba. “We know that on Hilton Head a lot of people like to go out to bars at night, so it’d be smart to stay open. Our priority will still be to attract families for dinner, but families don’t go out at night. That business typically dies down after 9 p.m., so we’re going to cater to the bar crowd at night.”
In addition to the larger bar area, Paulie’s on Hilton Head will have live music in the evenings, wine and cocktail specials, and a menu of their own flavored martinis. The location, in the building formerly occupied by Prescott’s between William Hilton Parkway and Dunnagans Alley, allows more flexibility to use exterior areas. For example, there is plenty of room for outdoor seating, and the new Paulie’s will feature three patios for outdoor dining. A new parking lot that the town is building at the corner of Arrow Road and Dunnagans Alley means there will be plenty of nearby parking for customers. Inside, the building’s second floor will be used for additional table service, private parties and banquets, and Carrabba plans to install multiple TVs for watching football in the fall.
There’s good news for you Paulie’s fans in Bluffton as well. Once the new Hilton Head store is up and running, the original in Berkeley Place will be renovated to incorporate some of the same elements, such as an expanded bar area and live entertainment.
Paulie’s Original Coal Fired Pizza is located at 104 Buckwalter Parkway, Bluffton. The new Paulie’s is located at 1034 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island. For more information, call (843) 757-3500 or visit PauliesCoalFiredPizza.com.