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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Crisp Pizza Bar & Lounge Lets You Get Creative

Custom pizzas and salads at new Brady Street eatery

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Crisp Pizza Bar & Lounge adds another unique element to the diverse scene along Brady Street. The pizza-centric menu makes perfect sense, since Crisp is located in the space that once housed Vucciria and its wood-fired pizza ovens.

The kitchen may be the same, but the interior has dramatically changed. The inside now includes hues of rich, burnished metal, with dark bar stools to match. The main level and the balcony hold numerous tables, and there’s also a new outdoor deck.

Another major change is the addition of a counter near the kitchen. This is where lunchtime customers order pizza by the slice ($5) and also where you order custom-made salads ($6). There are more than 30 ingredients to choose from: Assorted leafy greens can be enhanced with spinach, arugula, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, mushrooms and a wide assortment of cheeses, among other items. The most interesting cheese is Bellavitano, an Italian cheese with a flavor like sharp cheddar.

These ingredients also double as possibilities for custom pizzas. The pizzas come in two sizes ($10-$20) with mozzarella and a choice of three toppings. The crust is thin in the middle and thick at the border, much like a Neapolitan pizza. With so many ingredients to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Some ingredients, like walnuts, pepitas and eggs, are clearly intended for salads. Arugula, however, is another matter. I remember finding a great slice of pizza in Rome topped with little more than shavings of Parmesan Reggiano and baby dandelion greens. Here the arugula is minced and mixed with the cheese. When baked, it has a nice flavor that is more sprightly than fresh spinach. The prosciutto is so finely minced that it can barely be seen, but the flavor remains. The numerous cheeses offer many tantalizing options.

The menu remains in an early stage of development, but there are a few choices beyond pizza and salad. Sweet and Yukon gold potato fries ($5), as thin as matchsticks, are perfectly prepared. But it seems pricey for such a small serving. Instead order a “lamburger” ($8). The succulent ground lamb is cooked to order—a perfect medium-rare—and topped with peppers, marinated onions and good Irish white cheddar. It includes plenty of those tasty fries—a much better value.

One of the starters, Jack Daniel’s braised fire-roasted ribs ($8), could double as a light entrée. This starter includes five decent-sized ribs with a sauce that is more sweet than spicy. The ribs come with a Southern slaw of cabbage with sweet and hot peppers, as well as some carrots and red onions.

Tomato bisque usually implies a creamy soup, but here the spicy tomato basil bisque ($5) is more like a robust marinara sauce. It’s still good, but it’s rich and really belongs on a plate of pasta.

Crisp Pizza Bar & Lounge changes in character as the hours grow later. The focus is on pizza during lunch and the early evening hours, but later the bar and lounge tend to dominate. For the most part, service has been fine. Ultimately the décor is more dazzling than the food, but this is a place that allows you to be as creative as you wish. Design your own pizza or salad and enjoy. n

Crisp Pizza Bar & Lounge

1323 E. Brady St.

(414) 727-4217

$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Smoking: Outdoor Deck Only

Handicap Access: Yes

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