Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review: Crust Wood Fired Pizza, James Island SC

Crust Wood-Fired Pizza occupies a cozy spot in a James Island strip mall on Maybank Highway, just south of the Charleston peninsula. We visited at lunch time on a Friday and chose patio seating despite the intense heat of a Carolina July day; shade and porch fans kept it comfortable.

From a list of creative pizza options, we chose to share two 12" personal size Neapolitan pies. One was a fairly conventional pizza with red sauce and mozzarella, albeit a bit heavily loaded with the three-meat topping of pepperoni, sausage, and bacon. The second pie was the "Crustacean" with spicy shrimp, prosciutto, arugula pesto, feta, fresh mozzarella, fresh arugula,  and chili oil.

At a pizzeria named "Crust," the expectations are high for the dough base of the pie. I'm happy to report that Crust earns its name. This is a pretty pure version of the traditional Neapolitan pizza, made in a wood-fired oven (although not a dome oven) with the characteristic puffy cornicione and leopard spotting.

On both pies, the crust was soft but not floppy, thin everywhere except the cornicione, and delicious all by itself. On some Neapolitans, the white pies work better because the reduced moisture load (no red sauce) prevents the pie from becoming soggy in the middle. 

Here, both pies were expertly crafted and there was no hint of the wet center that spoils so many otherwise tasty Neapolitan pizzas.

The Crustacean pie sported several large brick red pieces of shrimp, made dark by spices. Seafood on pizza is a difficult challenge, because the intense heat required for any pizza - and especially a Neapolitan - is a threat to obliterate delicate seafood like shrimp. The shrimp here did not seem to suffer; perhaps they were added toward the end of the bake cycle.

What dominated that pie, though, was the arugula pesto. It blended smartly with the fresh mozzarella cheese and prosciutto. There were a lot of flavors going on here, and the shrimp got a little bit lost in competition with the meat, cheese, pesto, chili oil, and fresh arugula. All told this was a wonderful pizza, but I think it would not have been very different if made with any spicy meat in place of the shrimp.

The three-meat pie was also a bit of risk of too much bulk in the toppings, but the crust was up to the job. The red sauce was simple but prominent among the flavors. 

The pepperoni was thin and nicely crisped, and adhered well to the base as did the bacon. The sausage, pre-cooked large crumbles, added another dimension of flavor.

On most pizzas, Neapolitan or otherwise, I prefer traditional dry mozzarella to fresh mozzarella, because it doesn't release much water into the pie and it typically has more flavor. On both of these pizzas, however, the wonderful flavor of the fresh mozz was a standout. It seemed creamy and somehow more dense than most fresh mozzarella. It helped turn good pizza into great pizza.
The wood-fired oven
Just days earlier, we'd eaten shockingly good pizza at La Tela, also on James Island just outside Kiawah. Here again, we found pizza that was essentially flawless. An ideally-rendered and authentic Neapolitan crust topped with deeply flavorful fresh mozzarella and well-mated toppings. We asked ourselves if Crust or La Tela had better pizza - but the answer is that they are both wonderful.

Crust Wood Fired Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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