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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Crust [Meeting #75]

2056 W. Division St. (Map)
(773) 235-5511

CPC invaded Crust on 2/26/09.

By now, most people have come to accept organic foods as generally better tasting than their steroid and pesticide dependent counterparts because they give you super powers and make you attractive to both sexes (alert: sarcasm is high). Creating a restaurant around only organic food and then receiving certification as the first USDA certified organic restaurant in the Midwest does not conjure visions of taste greatness; it instead brings to my Midwestern (and sensible) mind a cuisine for California types that focuses on quality everywhere except for the overall taste of the food. I've avoided eating here and taking the CPC here, but eventually I decided to give it a try. Thankfully, Chef Michael Altenberg pays attention to his ingredients and showcases them well in his pizza.

After going through the long and apparently annoying process of organic certification, the restaurant opened up to large crowds initially in 2007. Although it initially received some lukewarm reviews for its pizza and pasta inconsistencies, it appears this has leveled off and can be attributed to working out the kinks of a newly opened restaurant. Crust does not make the typical pizza, but instead calls it a flatbread. It is cooked in yet another wood-fired oven and therefore the crust is rather thin and the pizzas are all single-serving size.

We arrived and found that we had enough people to order every single pizza on the menu, plus the special, if we wanted to do so. And that's exactly what we did. We ordered:

  • Wild herb and creamery cheese, with roasted garlic
  • FlammKuchen, a pizza with bacon and bechamel
  • Italian Sausage, homemade sausage in a tomato sauce
  • Pepperonata, tomato sauce, roasted peppers, and mozzarella
  • Shroom, featuring a salad with lemon dressing
  • Shrimp Arrabiata, featuring mozzarella and basil
  • Basilico, shredded basil with tomato sauce, bechamel and buffalo mozzarella
  • Margherita, with ricotta
  • Sausage Arrabiata (daily special), sliced sausage with roasted potatoes
  • Eggplant, with capers, pesto, onions, and olives
The ingredients here were showcased as the highlight of the food. There were a few misses, but more hits, and there is some creativity in these pies. We were informed that the sausage was homemade and it was excellent. The right mix of fat and meat, crumbled, and well balance in its seasoning. The sliced sausage did not appear to be the same kind as the crumbled. The sliced variety had very little flavor, was dry, and generally forgettable. The crust had excellent texture when it was hot. It had a good amount of chew and the crust was crisp. We're all accustomed to the unfortunate practice of not putting enough sauce on these type of pizzas; some don't even have a sauce. A generally basic tomato sauce with good Italian seasoning was outshined by the other ingredients in the pies. The exception were the Arrabiata dishes, where the sauce was appropriately spicy and plentiful.

The eggplant pizza was best described by a member who called it a "salt-lick disguised as eggplant." I don't think the Buffalo mozzarella made it on our basilico pizza or it was in such small amounts we failed to notice it. Either way, this was disappointing. The pizzas also tasted drastically different when they were hot and cold. The window for enjoying these pizzas is narrow. The fancy, expensive drinks do not live up their billing. They didn't have a bartender available and our waiter had to mix the drinks - poorly. And finally, the tab came to $15 a person, which is higher than we've come to expect when ordering for 12 people. When we left, we really weren't as grossly full as we usually were due to the smaller sizes of these pizzas. We were brought an extra shrimp arrabiata pizza by mistake and we still ate this extra pie and had room to spare. In fact, some members went to the nearby Caffe Gelato in the pouring rain for dessert while I went home and ate some ice cream instead.

Overall, an uneven performance. Some of these pizzas were quite good, but some were terrible and remained uneaten. Be careful in your selection and plan on appetizers and dessert and you can certainly have a fine meal here. I'm not sure if the rumors of the economic trouble Crust is experiencing are true or not, but they have cut their hours for the winter season.

Crust on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

[Chicago Pizza News] Who Invented the Deep-Dish?

Who invented Chicago's greatest contribution to humanity?
It's a mystery as old as time, and the Chicago Tribune tries to get to the bottom of it with an article published online today.
Take a look at what the Trib has to say by clicking here.