Upper Crust Wood-Fired Pizza, 5860 N Classen Blvd., just finished its first month of tenancy in Aubrey McClendon's shiny new Classen Curve development. The high-end pizzeria joins Cafe 501, 105degrees Cafe and Republic Gastropub in the gilded plaza designed by Rand Elliott.
The concept is a longtime dream of Hank Craft, chief operating officer of Hal Smith Restaurant Group, with a menu developed by the group's executive chef, Brad Johnson. The general manager of Upper Crust is Jeff Dixon, who put in his time at several Hal Smith concepts, most notably Charleston's.
The wood, metal and glass interior was conceived by TAP Architecture.
Chef Johnson's pies cook in shimmering silver ovens that burn a mix of oak, pecan and hickory, imparting rustic flavor.
In the first of two visits, we started with U.C Calamari, an Anti-Pizza platter and Buffalo-style "Wings."
The calamari was solid but not good enough to warrant spoiling lunch. The Anti-Pizza, a variety of cold cuts, cheeses, greens and crusty bread, allowed mixing and matching. The mortadella is sliced a tad thick, but any plate with capicola, caramelized onions, Kalamata olives, hunks of Parma, dollops of fresh mozzarella and crumbled blue cheese is welcome at my table any time.
The wings were a wonder of butchering. The wing is carefully clipped and cleaned so only the meaty tip is left to nibble, served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. What the wings lacked in substance, they made up in flavor and tidiness. Here are wings you don't have to wear.
On trip No. 2, we tried the Garlic Cheese Bread, which includes four kinds of cheese and way more slices than two could finish if there was any hope of getting halfway through dinner.
In two trips, I've tried three pies: The Rucci, Some Like it Hot and LK.
The Rucci looks like a standard pepperoni pizza until you bite into premium Fiorucci pepperoni, which are plentiful. The highlight of the LK was the melted dollops of goat cheese and mozzarella. Tomatoes, eggplant, red pepper, red onion, Parmesan and artichoke hearts brighten the mood.
My favorite pie was the Some Like it Hot. While not south-of-the-border hot, it has plenty of pop. While the Rucci and LK were rock-solid, they were riffs on pies I recognized. The Some Like it Hot, on the other hand, is a truly original composition from maestro Johnson. Peppadew, pepperoncini and hot cherry peppers join a pie well-populated with spicy Italian sausage. The coup de grace is a spiral of balsamic vinegar that allows the flavors to advance full-throttle.
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