At first glance, this charming street seems familiar. It reminds me of walking through the side streets of Greenwich Village in New York City. But Kenilworth Ave. is in our very own backyard, in the character-filled neighborhood of Tremont. Residing on this street is a very unassuming storefront, with large vertical letters on the window spelling out the word CRUST.
Upon entering, I can see that this quaint take-out spot is serious about its pizza. Located in an old dry cleaning shop, it has just two tables with a total of eight seats. But owners Mike Griffin and Jeff Fisher, the chef, are not aiming to be a fancy sit-down restaurant. With its “on stage” kitchen and high ceilings, CRUST reminds you of a family-run business with an industrial chic feel. Which is not far off; Griffin’s cousin is the owner of Visible Voice bookstore across the street.
This is not Griffin’s first rodeo. He has been in the food business most of his life, working in his family’s Italian restaurants. And the family connection does not end there. Griffin was introduced to Fisher, his soon-to-be partner, by a family member. Once they started talking, they quickly realized that they are in reality distant cousins. So by sheer fate, CRUST really is a family business.
Griffin is pumped that he is partners with a high-powered chef like Fisher, whose last gig was as executive chef at Touch Supper Club. And Fisher understands that he has to bring his A-game to Tremont.
“We are in the culinary mecca of the state, so focusing on fresh local ingredients from places like the Tremont Farmers Market is critical,” he says.
That focus started with the most important part of a pizza, the dough. Fisher and Griffin tried more than 15 different recipes to perfect the dough for CRUST’s pizzas and rolls, made fresh daily. They also chose to make only one style of pasta daily — gnocchi. Evidently they made good choices, since they’ve run out of food almost every day since opening a few weeks ago. “We have to keep increasing our pars daily, and probably will need more cooler space,” Griffin says.
Some of the menu highlights that people are lining up for include the Butternut Squash Gnocchi (I tried this. It’s good.); the Lemon Rosemary Chicken Pizza; and the Spaniard Sub (stuffed with chorizo). Because Tremont is a walking neighborhood, CRUST also has a giant pizza on the menu named “The Destroyer.” It is an enormous 30-inch pie that they sell by the slice. One of these 15-inch “fold over” slices will put you back only $3.
According to Griffin, many customers have already suggested delivery and later hours. He has both of those improvements in the works. Pizza is one of those foods that people get passionate and loyal about, including me. That’s why pizza-lovers mean it when they say, “It’s all about the dough” — or in this context, the CRUST!
1020 Kenilworth Ave Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Monday - Thursday 11-7
Friday and Saturday 11-9
Sunday - Closed