Seasoned Restaurateur Chris LaRocca and partners are definitely on to something with this latest venture, Crushed Red. The cafeteria-style pizzeria in what used to be Dick Blick is standing-room busy, and for good reason. The food is fresh, light, quick and reasonably priced. Crushed Red has found a way to serve slow food in a fast food format.
The mostly pizza and salad spot can dish up a made-to-order meal
in about 10 minutes, but that does not include the time you spend waiting in line. Salads are chopped ceremoniously in front of you, and your pizza order is delivered to the table. There are 10 salads and 14 pizzas on the menu, plus you can completely customize either, if you prefer. In addition, there are all-natural soups and a few shared appetizers.
A South of the Border salad ($6) was very tasty, the veggies crisp and fresh and the low-fat chipotle dressing pleasantly sweet. The base
of romaine, avocado, roma tomatoes, cheddar and roasted corn is gathered into a bowl by the choppers (armes with two-handled mezzaluna knives), who toss the contents onto a chopping block and reduce it into neat forkfuls. It’s fun to watch – and to eat salad that isn’t fighting to escape your fork or your mouth, but we found we needed extra dressing.
The Hail Caesar salad ($6) didn’t have anywhere near the interest of the Mexican-flavored one, but the Emerald Coast ($8) tossed with sweet red pepper dressing was pretty good. It had those same mixed greens, plus avocado, cucumbers and roasted shrimp, but the shrimp (like the aforementioned roasted corn) really didn’t have that crisped texture
I expect from roasting.
This is a cafeteria, remember, so you’re on your own if you want more iced tea, salad dressing or anything else after you’re seated. And, unfortunately, diners around you, too, might need to get up during their meal, resulting in a very busy (some might say, un-relaxing) atmosphere. But that’s the trade-off for a quick, inexpensive but good meal. As for atmosphere, this place is attractive and much more upscale than any fast food joint I’ve been in.
The pizza, with crust made of whole-grain dough, is excellent with a light, slightly oily quality that is very tasty. Not thick, thin or deep-dish, it’s closes to New York-style, with each pizza a long, narrow rectangle yielding about eight small squares. A delicious Five Cheese ($7.50) started with an oil-and-garlic rubbed crust and blended three goat cheeses with parmesan, mozzarella and basil. The Big Island ($7.50) had a delicious blend of sweetness and acidity, with a base of tomato sauce topped by pineapple, prosciutto and sautéed red onions. Also liked: Roasted Chicken Gorgonzola ($8.50), with cream pungent cheese, chunked chicken and acidic tomatoes.
TOWN & STYLE MAGAZINE:
[On the Table] Crushed Red
By Jonathan Carli
June 6, Pg 54