The New Aroma Drawing Tremonsters to Kenilworth
by Rich Weiss
A new aroma is drawing Tremonsters to the beautiful little storefront at 1020 Kenilworth Avenue, through the antique double doors, and into Tremont’s new, gourmet pizza, pasta, salad, and sub shop, Crust. On this particular day, the aroma was coming from a freshly baked Finocichni – a Crust specialty pizza with finocchi (Italian salami), shaved red onion, red sauce, garlic oil, pecorino romano, smoked mozzarella, fresh rosemary, and fresh basil – being boxed and sent off with customer who ordered the pie for pickup.
“My cousin, Dave Ferrante, owns the bookstore across the street – Visible Voice Books – so that’s why we’re here,” explained Mike Griffin, owner, about how Crust found its location in Tremont. His dream was to open a shop that “takes pizza to a whole other level.” Griffin credits Jeff Fisher (formerly head chef at Touch), with thinking outside the pizza box: “Jeff Fisher is our chef, and he takes all our food to a whole other level – pizza, gnocchi…we sit here and hand-roll our gnocchi every morning, we make our bread in a big mixer, every morning. We bake our pizza dough every morning, in-house. There’s not one thing out of a can, here. It’s all homemade.”
And Crust uses local ingredients. “We get all our produce from down at the Westside Market and Tremont Farmers’ Market…Romaine, leaf lettuce…we get all our Finocci, Spanish Chorezo all down there [at the West Side Market] , too.” Griffin squinted, visualizing walking the market floor before arriving at Crust to begin baking before dawn, “We get all our bacon from Sebastian’s stand at the Market, and our pork from Kaufman’s.”
Some ingredients come straight to his Tremont doorstep. Griffin said, “I have a guy who drops off a hundred pounds of squash every week. We go through butternut squash like crazy because we put it on the pizza with a little Danish blue cheese, a little apple cider reduction – we reduce it in-house – there’s a pumpkin seed oil we put on there, and life is good! Butternut squash sells like crazy.”
“Tremont has received us very well.” Griffin smiled, “When we first opened it was just Jeff and myself, and we were prepping for about twenty-five people for lunch, because we just put a little sign out front that said, ‘OPEN.’ We had about a hundred and fifty people for lunch. We’ve been cruising ever since. Word got out. We have a little issue where we’re selling out of our food.”
A regular showpiece at Crust, “The Destroyer,” takes up a healthy slice of take-out counter real estate. Griffin gave the details on the walk-in crowd-pleaser: “That’s a thirty-inch pizza with fifteen-inch slices at three bucks a slice. If you want to add toppings, it’s a dollar for our pepperoni sausage, or you could do stuffed banana peppers that we make in-house, our Spanish chorizo – anything, any of the high-end stuff we can do.”
What makes Crust different than anywhere else?
“We do a French baguette-style pizza dough,” Griffin said. “It’s very time-consuming, we put a lot of time into the roll, that’s how we get the good chew, the good consistency, the good, fluffy crust on there. It’s very time-consuming, what we do, but I hope people enjoy the product.”
Griffen offered up a taste of their pizza sauce, and it is unique and delicious. He listed, “A little garlic, a little white wine, tomato…” Suddenly, gnocchi appeared. Griffin said, “Our gnocchi, we roll it ourselves so it’s very fluffy, and it’s $9.95 – it’s a take-out, so you can come home, grab it, and go.” Griffen handed off a sample of the gnocchi: “This is a Rosted Tomato Gnocchi. Basil, garlic, white wine, roasted tomato, lemon, parmesan broth, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. We roast the tomatoes up in-house, we hand-roll the gnocchi.” Scrumptious.
Crust is all about its hand-crafted and locally sourced ingredients – even the recipe for the pizza crust, itself, was a hands-on process. Griffin recalled, “Jeff and I sat in here and made four hundred pounds of dough just to get that recipe, the one that we liked. We made good dough, and we’d go ‘Oh, my God, that’s it!’ Then we’d make another and go, ‘Oh my God, THAT’S it!’ Then we found this French baguette style – like I said, it’s time-consuming, but it does the trick. Everybody loves it.”