Clifton Park

At the Table: In Clifton Park, a timeless ‘Classic’ ­— pizza done just right

Clockwise from top left: The interior of Classic Crust Brick and Mortar; a dry martini and glass of rosé wine; a meat lover's pizza; and roasted rosemary chicken kabobs with pesto aioli. (Caroline Lee photos)

Clockwise from top left: The interior of Classic Crust Brick and Mortar; a dry martini and glass of rosé wine; a meat lover's pizza; and roasted rosemary chicken kabobs with pesto aioli. (Caroline Lee photos)

Independent pizza restaurants are thin on the ground in this part of the Capital Region, so residents must be pleased that Classic Crust, with its very good wood-fired oven pizza, has moved in.

Classic Crust started as a mobile catering business and made the leap from 1946 custom-built Chevy catering truck with pizza oven and beer taps to a brick-and-mortar restaurant last year.

When the old Jonesville Store came up for sale, Julie and Greg Carioto decided it was time to open a stationery version of Classic Crust. The catering truck is still rolling.

The place is charming as heck. Built in roughly 1860, the two-and-a-half story clapboard building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You may remember the previous tenant, Rocco’s, a very good Italian restaurant; before that it was the Jonesville Store, a casual restaurant and deli with prepared foods to go.

The Edison bulbs evoke memories of Rocco’s, as does the bar, the wide wood plank floor and airy open dining room. Now there’s a banquette along one side of the room, with high- and low-top tables, and it feels more casual. There’s outdoor dining on the front and side porches.

We arrived shortly after opening on a weekday. There were two other parties in the dining room, but that didn’t last long. By the time we got our meal the place was full.

There were families with small children, folks seated at the bar, couples and groups of friends at tables. Classic Crust feels family-friendly but not exclusively so.

The Classic Crust menu is mostly pizza, cooked in a wood-fired oven, along with appetizers, salads and sides. Prices are reasonable.

They get fancy with a fig-and-goat-cheese pizza and truffle mushroom (both $17), but you can’t go wrong with a classic cheese pizza for $13. The 10-inch, six-cut pies are perfect for two.

Our neighbors at the next table shared a spinach walnut salad ($13), also perfect for two or as a meal for one. Appetizers include a charcuterie board ($22), pimento stuffed pretzels ($13) and bacon-wrapped dates ($15).

Husband Eric awarded Classic Crust points for serving his martini in a traditional glass with a stem. I took them away when I got a squat stemless wine glass. Wines are listed on a blackboard near the bar, as are beers. From four choices, I picked a medium dry, peachy-pink rosé (all selections $12).

We shared an order of fragrant, roasted rosemary chicken kabobs ($14) to start with, chunks of white meat marinated into soft juiciness. They were nicely browned, served with a pesto aioli.

“The aioli definitely makes it,” said Eric.

I dragged a piece of chicken through the aioli, pleasantly surprised by the pesto flavor that balanced out the vinegary mayonnaise. We packed up a kabob, taking all the aioli we could get off the plate.

We shared a side of sautéed spinach and roasted garlic ($7) studded with roasted, browned and softened whole cloves. The flavor was heavenly, but the spinach was fibrous and stringy, and very hard to chew and swallow. I gave up, and tried the leftovers again the next day. It was no better. Too bad.

There are as many kinds of pizza in this region as there are purveyors, and the best pizza is the freshly made one in front of you. Our meat lover’s pizza ($17) came straight from the oven with an airy, crackly crust, freckled melted mozzarella cheese and meat.

Eric’s favorite pie is the standard combination of sausage, meatball and pepperoni. He waffled between Classic Crust’s version and building his own.

I’m so glad we chose their meat lover’s pizza because the pepperoni turned into little cups from the oven’s heat, the crumbled sausage was tender and flavorful, and the bacon — oh, the bacon.

It was in little chunks, it was tender and smoky and salty and a little crispy, and you could taste the fat. And taken with the fresh, pleasantly acidic pizza sauce represented by mostly pulp and seeds, and the crisp crust, it was otherworldly.

You can see how even Classic Crust’s plain cheese pie would get accolades because its crust, the sauce and cheese are all up there in texture and flavor.

The crust is blistered, the bottom speckled with char, and the mozzarella is creamy and melty, the sauce bright. And the pizza is “juicy” in the best way, with a high ratio of fresh, brilliant sauce to crust and cheese.

“The individual toppings stand out,” said Eric, and noted that the cheese stayed creamy and soft even when the pizza cooled. Per our marital agreement, he passed over his pizza crusts.

Our Classic Crust pizza was scored deeply with the pizza wheel, and each slice lifted apart easily, even laden with toppings. Not a quality you seek out, but it makes things easier.

Another chalkboard, this one with desserts, advertised four kinds of pie. Were they homemade, we wondered? Our server answered, “We get them from somewhere.”

The service was solid and the kitchen moved along smoothly, as evidenced by the orders arriving in a timely manner to our table and ones around us. The servers were efficient and friendly.

Keep in mind that on a very hot day, their ductless air conditioners had trouble keeping up with a dining room full of people. In that case, you might want to take your pizza home.

Eric took home a slice of pecan pie ($7); he regretted passing up on the ice cream, which would have shortly been soup. The crust, stamped with a pattern that identified it as commercial, had fallen off when he took it out the next day. I tasted a piece, it was pleasantly salty and tender, I thought.

The pie was a bit dry, something easily remedied by a scoop of ice cream. “It’s very gooey and sweet enough,” he decided, a compliment.

The tab for our meal, with martini, glass of wine and generous tip, came to $93.72. We left thinking it was a lot for a pizza dinner, but had we just ordered a pizza and soda it would have been a small fraction of that.

We were satisfied with the meal and the service, and brought home leftovers.

We were impressed with Classic Crust and heartily recommend its crispy, fresh pizza and excellent toppings. The surroundings are comfortable and pleasant, and the service good.

The neighbors must be thrilled.

Classic Crust Brick and Mortar

WHERE: 989 Main St., Clifton Park; (518) 406-3330;
WHEN: 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.
HOW MUCH: $93.72
MORE INFO: Credit cards accepted. ADA compliant.
Parking lot.

Categories: Food


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