We were attracted to Crush Pizza by a tomato-averse teenager who touted a menu that includes several white pizzas, but we found much more. The Neapolitan pizzeria with a wood-fired brick oven serves steaks tips and chicken dishes as well as pizza. Think a northern version of Santarpio’s of East Boston.
The restaurant was opened earlier this summer by Tony Naser, the owner of a chain of jewelry stores. He has a passion for authentic Neapolitan pizza made with homemade mozzarella, fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil , and Italian tomatoes that have been grown on volcanic plains, then hand-crushed: thus the restaurant’s name.
Crush’s pizzas are cooked in a matter of seconds - 90, the restaurant’s menu says - with the wood-burning oven set at 900 degrees.
Crush has five “pizza bianco’’ offerings: the Toscana ($14), with pan-seared field mushrooms, mozzarella and Romano cheeses, and a garlic cream sauce with a drizzle of truffle oil; Pista ($13), with fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, red onion, and pistachio (yes, pistachio); Quarto Formaggi ($13), with four cheeses - buffalo mozzarella, gran cru, caciocavallo, and Parmigiano-Reggiano; Parma ($15), with mozzarella, prosciutto and arugula; and the Pizza del Rey ( $17), with mozzarella, field mushrooms, prosciutto, and black truffle spread.
We tried the Pizza del Rey, which was truly fit for a king and one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had, even without the tomato sauce. The Pista more than met the tomato-averse teen’s lofty standards.
We went back to Crush several times and sampled several other pizzas, each adequate to feed one person if eaten without anything on the side.
We tried the Margherita ($10), with crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh basil; the Capri ($13), with crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, pan-seared field mushrooms, ham, olives, and artichoke drizzled with olive oil; and the Fungi ($11), with pan-seared field mushrooms, crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, also with extra-virgin olive oil.
But Crush is not just about pizza. The steak tips ($15), 12-plus ounces of meat, arrived juicy and sizzling, accompanied by a cucumber salad and grilled peppers. The marinated beef practically melted in our mouths.
We started all our meals with the Limoncello wings ($8.50 or $15), chicken wings marinated in the Italian lemon liqueur, garlic, and rosemary, then fire-grilled and served with sweet, cooked onions and fresh-baked focaccia. The wings were juicy, zesty, and smoky, and the caramelized onions tasted great on the seasoned bread. Some of the best we can remember.
Other appetizers include crispy zucchini fritte ($8), fresh zucchini battered with panko crumbs and fried, served with lemon aioli sauce; and pizza fritte ($9), a round of pizza dough stuffed with sausage, fresh mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, and basil, then deep-fried.
There are also other wood-fired entrees, such as grilled Italian sausage ($10), served with hot cherry peppers; grilled chicken ($10), a boneless breast basted with olive oil, lemon, and Italian herbs; and the mixed grille ($16), a huge portion of sirloin tips, sausage, and chicken, served with hot cherry peppers; all three come with a choice of house salad or fries.
Crush also has several varieties of panu ozzo, rustic Italian sandwiches, made with wood-fired bread similar to pizza crust. We tried the fire-grilled housemade Italian sausage ($8.50), with grilled green and orange peppers, onions and marinara sauce, and the Caprese ($7), with Crush’s fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil (we added prosciutto Di Parma for $2). The Caprese was stellar, and the hand-cut fries weren’t the least bit greasy and were perfectly seasoned.
After all the carb-loading we shouldn’t have ordered dessert, but we couldn’t resist the panna cotta ($6), cooked cream with vanilla bean and topped with slices of strawberry, lime zest, and a colorful berry couli on the side. It was a sweet, but not saccharine, an end to the meal worthy of any North End eatery.