May 21 2012 06:49 PM

Goodness-packed pies and piadinas with guts

Monique is hot and tasty.
Photo by Jenny Montgomery

These days, it seems like every neck in the San Diego County woods is adding a pizza place that could be called “legit.” You can't turn the corner without tripping over someone's artisanal sausage or in-house mozzarella. And it's about time, because even though I love cheesy dough as much as the next person, watching pizza chains out-stuff each other's product is starting to turn my stomach. And let's not even discuss Pizza Hut's hot-dog-stuffed crust that recently hit the U.K. Sign of the apocalypse? Perhaps. But that's another column.

Happily, Crust has arrived in Carlsbad, bringing its self-proclaimed “upscale” and artisan-style pizza to North County. Blue Ribbon in Encinitas still has the lock on most-exceptional pie up yonder (and maybe even in the whole county), but Crust (3263 Camino de Los Coches) is no slouch. With a name like Crust, the dough upon which your toppings rest had better be quality and not just a forgettable thing to chew on.

Thin is in when it comes to pizza crust, especially a pie with “New York” in front of it. I like that Crust's is not so thin that it turns soggy, but there's also not so much dough that your jaw has to work overtime. The 'zas are named after ladies (Karla, Kelly, Ana), and although it was tempting for me to order my namesake “Jennifer” pizza (surely it tastes like kindness and awesome dance moves), I dug into Monique. Girrrrl, you are tasty!

The first thing you notice about Monique are her slices of gold and green heirloom tomatoes, glistening like garden-fresh jewels. Joining the sweet 'maters on Monique's pie is sausage from Kansas City's Scimeca's Sausage. The Italian sausage from Scimeca's is studded with astringent fennel seed, and every bite is tender and herbal. Throw in stretchy mozzarella, lush ricotta and sunny shreds of basil, and you have a pizza that's loaded with freshness and flavor.

And, yes, the sausage is excellent, but I docked a few points for the out-of-state import. Weren't we just talking about all the top-notch homemade stuff San Diego restos are turning out? The food scene, and, indeed, the pizza world in town is getting competitive. I say up your game and keep it local.

You know that funky, foot-like smell that good cheese emits? That's the first thing you smell when you walk into Crust. And I mean that in the best way. I like the stinkiness—it's like a rind of good Parmigiano Reggiano—and I think it gives the whole environment an earthy, old-world aura.

If you're there for lunch, don't miss out on the “piadinas,” the house crust wrapped around various fillings. I like the Pepperoni Piadina for sheer moxie. With hummus, artichoke hearts and pepperoni slices, this roll is jammed with strong flavors and makes no apologies for it. Hold your head high, dig in and bring a breath mint.

Crust is worth a visit, sausage issues or no. Because, hey—they aren't hot dogs.


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