Celebrated Hilton Head Island chef and food consultant Lee Lucier, a co-owner of the island's original Local Pie and its new incarnation at 15 State of Mind St., started making pizza as a kid working on the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore.
Interestingly, it was in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., in 2003 that Anthony Mangieri, a tattooed young pizzaiuoli (pizza baker), first fashioned the now trendy Neapolitan-style pizza served at Local Pie - and all over the U.S.
Mangieri developed a cult following serving just four varieties of wood-fired pizza - and nothing else - that he learned to make in Napoli. Fanatical about ingredients, right down to the wood used in the oven, and serving only one size pie, unsliced, Mangieri was called by online reviewers "the pizza Nazi," particularly because he closes when the dough runs out, which it does every night.
I share this because that happened last year at Local Pie's island location, and it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Described as a food-forward pizza joint with a focus on minimally processed foods, regional sourcing and scratch cooking methods, Bluffton's Local Pie has none of Mangieri's attitude but an amazing adaptation of his 21st century pizza.
The wood-paneled space showcases two large, pebble-tiled, hemisphere-shaped ovens on one side, and on the other a bar with a cut-out wall open to outdoor seating.
There's a quieter upstairs section that seats at least 20, and tables outside overlooking the Promenade.
The signature Local Margarita, available in 10- or 16-inch sizes for $13 or $21, is simply executed with house-made mozzarella, sliced fresh tomato, fragrant local basil and a drizzle of The Oilerie's extra-virgin olive oil and Georgia pecan pesto.
This bianco (no sauce) pizza comes out of the oven with puffy crust charred on the edges, the creamy mozzarella in blister-like bubbles that won't singe the roof of your mouth like a pizza-chain pie. Although pillow-y, the crust is thin and light, with an intoxicating, rich wheaty aroma.
It is pizza nirvana, but if you want it your way, you can get San Marzano red sauce, pepperoni, Italian sausage, meatballs, caramelized Vidalia onion, andouille sausage, bacon or even duck confit. Pies range from $9 to $21.
There are a half dozen tempting salads, from $7 to $13.50; popular starters including Fried Green Tomato Caprese, $10.50, and Deez Knots, crispy garlic dough knots with shaved parmesan and red sauce, $6.50.
Bar manager Conrad Helms IV said the Bluffton location has developed a following with locals who work on the island but want to stay closer to home when socializing. Local Pie's mixologists oblige with daily drink specials. Open daily; call 843-837-7437 or visit www.localpie.com.
Freelance writer Pam Gallagher was a copy editor at USA Today and a staff writer and fashion editor for the Asbury Park Press.