I've got a new pizza crush, and it's in downtown Boston. Crush Pizza, at 107 State Street, can make a delicious Neapolitan-style pizza in 90 seconds, perfect for the busy lunch crowd. Not using a microwave or other nuclear energy.
Chef and owner Tony Naser uses two wood-fired pizza ovens he imported from Italy. These dramatic-looking shiny red brick ovens make custom-made pizzas in a 900-degree brick oven that bubbles the cheese and cooks the thin crust thoroughly.
What is impressive is that everything is made from scratch, which means no preservatives, fillers, or yuck. Of course, it's pizza, but it's a healthy pizza. Or as healthy as you choose to make it.
Below the 39-seat white-and-gray restaurant is a basement kitchen, where the dough is made daily from imported Italian flour, the sauce is made from hand-crushed, flavorful San Marzano tomatoes, and the whole- milk mozzarella is formed. They aren't growing the vegetables…yet. Their efforts result in a fresh-tasting, clean-tasting pizza. Naser doesn't even put oil on the pizza, since the cheese provides plenty of moisture. And Naser also claims that his pizza pie has lower calories and fewer carbohydrates than the average pizza.
This is the second Crush Pizza location; the first is in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Naser owns a family-run chain of NH jewelry stores, but he's always wanted to make pizza. He owned a couple of restaurants, including a kebab spot in Florida, and went to school at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. In 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, he decided it was time to pursue his dreams and open an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria in his hometown, Nashua, NH.
At one point, he and his family climbed into an RV and toured the country to taste and work at some of the nation's best pizzerias.
He was impressed by the coal-fired pizza craze that took off a few years ago, although he noted that institutions such as Frank Pepe's and Lombardos sp? have been doing this since coming over from Naples a hundred years ago. "They make really good pizza," he said. "So we were going from one pizzeria to the next, and I stumbled across a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria in Greenwich Village, with lines out the door. I said to my wife, 'There's something about this place. My wife ordered a pizza to go. When you think of a pizza, it's a cheese pizza, a margarita. This was a white pizza. i said, 'Wow, this was the best pizza i ever had.' It was Naples pizza."
His takeaway: to create a "build-your own" model concept (think Chipotle) using a wood-fired oven. His pizza is true Neapolitan pizza, or D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) pizza. So pure, he says, that there are only a handful of restaurants in the United States that make it.
Customers can choose from a selection of fresh, freshly made and imported toppings including pepperoni, pesto, arugula, apple smoked bacon, truffle oil, prosciutto di Parma, mozzarella di bufala, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, homemade meatballs, grilled steak, and sautéed shrimp. Pizza prices start at $7.95.
If you don't want to build your own, choose from 10 specialty pies, including capri (crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, pan-seared field mushrooms, ham, olives and artichokes), Pesto Blast (fresh-made pesto, fire-roasted cherry tomatoes, feta, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and a pinch of crushed red pepper), Bourbon BBQ Chicken (homemade bourbon BBQ sauce, red onions, grilled chicken, mozzarella, cilantro, scallions and crispy tortilla strips) and Spinacia (pan roasted spinach, fire-roasted cherry tomatoes, feta, mozzarella and garlic cream sauce).
My kid and I tried the BBQ chicken one, and the sauce was sweet but not overpowering. The margarita pizza is a simple cheese, with a perfect balance of cheese to sauce ratio. No spices, no oil, just dough, sauce and fresh cheese. The kid gave it a big thumbs up.
Open for lunch and dinner, Crush also serves up panu ozzo (wood-fired) sandwiches and antipasti. There's a tray of Sicilian pan slices, too. A perfect side dish is their signature Fire-grilled Limoncello Wings, marinated in limoncello, garlic, and rosemary then fire-grilled and served with fresh baked focaccia. The wings are smoky, with a hint of lemon, and delicious.
Perfect ending? Espresso drinks and two dozen flavors of freshly made from-scratch gelato for dessert. Hazelnut Gelato. Just like Italy.
This is a jewel of a place in the Financial District. Meanwhile, Naser is still doing jewelry, too. For Naser, his two loves, designing jewelry and designing all-natural pizza, are similar pursuits. "It's all about making beautiful things with your hands," he said.
107 State Street
Monday thru Thursday 11 am-9 pm; Friday - Saturday: 11 am to 10 pm; Sunday noon to 8 pm.