Pizza and wine is a pretty safe plan for dinner out when you’re rolling with a medium-sized party of say six or so. It’s rare that someone doesn’t have at the very least a tolerance for cheese-covered and cooked dough and the addition of wine, particularly before the pizza is ordered, can alleviate any anxiety about pizza topping consensus. The elevated cylindrical pans are perfect for conveniently nabbing a slice of the ’Za whenever you want (even though Leader Eater is always that guy who can never fully hack through the pesky bit of cheese between the pieces and I embarrassingly stretch it out so much that it looks like that first foot step up after planting your shoe down in some chewing gum) and wine from a bottle is just down right communal.
This scene played out recently (yes, the awkward pizza serving faux pas included) at the spacious dinner and drinks hideaway called Crisp. The new eatery on the corner of Bevis and 23rd Street adds to the underrated restaurant district emerging in the Shady Acres borough of The Heights; centered primarily along 20th Street and the few blocks of Ella Boulevard north of T.C. Jester.
Eight stone-oven cooked pizzas showcase Crisp’s menu with my group going for the polar opposite selections of Talegio Florentine and San Fran’s North Beach (“Our version of meat lovers,” our waiter explained about the wheel named after the predominately Italian neighborhood in Frisco). Fennel seed sausage was one of the three meat toppings and its taste didn’t take on the over-bearing flavor characteristics that some sausages can, instead blending in nicely with the half slices of cherry tomato and full green olives. The TF hit on the decadent end of the pizza palette with its namesake cheese bringing out a sweet and creamy taste beside the marinated artichoke hearts, spinach, crispy onions and truffle oil (“You had me at truffle oil,” quipped one of my friends about one of the Crisp menu’s recurring ingredients).
As much as Crisp stands up to any of the area’s other sit-down pizza and wine experiences – Collina’s and Star Pizza immediately coming to mind – it would be offensive to lump it into this category. There is a lot more going on at Crisp. For starters, the sophisticated wine selections can not only be consumed from the glass and/or bottle but at the restaurant’s enomatic wine dispensing apparatus. Simply put, it is a self-serve wine dispenser that allows you not only to test out wines before you commit to a bottle but offers the ability to indulge in a couple ounces of high-end wine at a really reasonable price. (My sedentary group stayed at the table after receiving an astute recommendation for Antigal 1 Malbec from our gregarious waiter.)
There is a Cheers-style, sit-on-all-sides bar (populated by disappointed Texans’ fans that evening), a special party room and a massive outdoor patio. But it’s the extra frills beyond the pizza portion of the menu that need highlighting. There are classy dinner salads (the Romaine Salad “Caesar Style” with a topping of fried Calamari is Leader Eater’s endorsement and keep the Parmesan Crisp all to yourself), slick sandwiches (one of my compadre’s went with the Ciabatta-based Chicken Saltimbocca) and refined entrees such as the half-pound beef tenderloin (big enough for two, I was told).
Ironically, the top of Crisp’s menu should be given the most prominence with a 10-plate offering of snacks and apps. The pool of orange and thyme vinaigrette tasted more like a jelly fit for biscuits than a dipping sauce for the delectable fried risotto balls better known as Saffron Arancini. But don’t leave Crisp without getting some of the Roasted Mushroom Fondue. There are flavor bombs in the form of full mushroom caps and garlic cloves lurking in the warm concoction of taleggio cheese and truffle oil (yep, that pair again). The only problem: trying to share it means serving out some of that elastic-like cheese from the dish to your plate without causing a scene.
Snacks and Apps: $7-$15
Pizza and Sandwiches: $9.50-$17
Large Plates: $18-$30
Kid Friendly: Their huge patio out back in daylight hours is your best plan
LE’s Favorite: Roasted Mushroom Fondue