When I originally heard that a pizzeria was going to take over 242 Allen (formerly the home of Sample), I was a little disappointed. Buffalo has so many pizza places already and I was hoping that something unique and exciting would be moving into that space. Luckily, Crust Pizza Bar is much more exciting than I initially expected. We live only a block away, so we watched the progress of the space over the past summer. As renovations were going on, Crust started a twitter account and posted some pictures of impressive equipment and began to tweet about having a good craft beer list and their plan to offer Pizza al Taglio (a Roman style of pizza by the slice).
A couple weeks ago we started to see some pictures of the pizza pop up on instagram and I tried to remain cautiously optimistic; there have been several attempts to make ‘authentic’ versions of pizza in WNY and we’ve been disappointed more often then not. But Alli was very excited and walked our dogs by everyday to see how close they were to opening.
- Restaurant Type: Casual Dine In, Takeout
- Location: Allentown
- Cuisine: Italian, Pizza
- Prices: Pizza $12+, Sides $3-8
Following the popular fast-casual style of service, the restaurant is set up with a long counter where the bar used to sit at Sample. Starting at the left end of the counter, you are able to watch your pizza being made in front of you as you choose from a large variety of ingredients. You have two options to start, a “red” pizza which a San Marzano sauce and mozzarella base, or the “white” pizza base of mozzarella, garlic and olive oil. The pizzas start at $12 which includes one meat and one veggie topping. You can get crazy and add extras like arugula, 18 year old balsamic, chili oil, goat cheese and prosciutto but it will be an extra $1/2 bucks. It might seem a little expensive for a personal pizza (each 10 inch pizza has four large square slices), but these pizzas are dense and filling. They also have a couple pizzas ready to go; if you are only looking for small bite to eat you can order a slice or two for just a couple bucks.
Their crust is pre-made daily (parbaked) in a “Lazio” style, which means its thicker and airier than typical Neapolitan style pizza and very crunchy. They use 00 flour and let the dough rise for 72 hours, it actually reminds me of really good bread rather than normal pizza dough. I love the crunchiness and air bubbles throughout. It’s definitely a unique crust that no other pizzerias in WNY are attempting to create. Crust is are serving some Italian sides (rice balls, olives), some Buffalo comfort foods (home made mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers), potato croquettes (which Alli loves) and salads. Many will be happy to know that they also have Gluten-free crusts and have the ability to make vegan-friendly pizza’s as well.
We’ve made several trips to the restaurant since they had their soft opening a couple weeks ago. Full disclosure: we were first invited to a tasting and sampled almost everything on their menu. I realize we were served food in the most ideal of scenarios but it’s been just as good on every visit since. We’ve been back at least five times in the past two weeks. It’s safe to say we are big fans.
Of all of the pizza’s we’ve tried so far, two of our favorites were a white pizza with onion and sausage and a red pizza topped with chorizo (Spar’s) and mozzarella curd. On our last visit we tried their “Grandma style” which is a traditional square pizza with a layer of cheese then topped with a sauce made of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, garlic oil and a little basil. It’s incredibly simple and delicious. We also tried a steak and cheese that was topped with arugula and onion; each slice was basically a meal in itself. Because of the parbaked crust, leftover pizza does really well when reheated in the oven. It comes out tasting very fresh, which is not something you can say about most reheated pizza.
We’ve also tried their Arancini rice ball (the name is a little confusing) a few times. Packed with mozzarella, peas and prosciutto, it’s only $3 bucks and is definitely large enough for two people to share along with a couple other dishes. Their potato croquettes (2 for $6.50) have been very good too, creamy potato on the inside of a thin fried shell and served with a delicious roasted garlic aioli.
While some people might experience some minor sticker shock (compared to the quantity of other pizza places), the quality at Crust is much better than most. A single four slice pizza can easily feed two hungry people, especially if you’re ordering a side or two. When they get their liquor license and start serving beer and wine in the coming weeks, I’ll be even more excited. The space really looks great; the design is clean, simple and modern with seating both downstairs and in the loft area above the service bar. They are currently in their soft opening, and while I think they’ve nailed the food, the service and experience is still improving as they train and experience more customers. Owner Pete McConeghy has mentioned being open until 4am on the weekends and I can’t wait to have a quality option for my late night drunk eats within walking distance from my house.
Bottom-line, get over to Crust soon, it’s a really great addition to Allentown that everyone should be excited about.