Hungry Diners could argue for eternity over which type of pizza reigns supreme: New York-style or Neapolitan. And what about Chicago? While that may be a matter of taste, pizza lovers at the beach are simultaneously losing a longtime New York style pizza joint while gaining a new option for Neapolitan as Al’s Pizza at the Beaches Town Center moves down Third Street into a new concept, reopening as Craft Pizza Co.
Fans of Al Mansur’s collection of pizza restaurants in the area need not worry. Craft Pizza Co. is a fine addition to a portfolio that includes Flying Iguana Taqueria and a number of Al’s Pizzas stretching from Riverside to St. Augustine. The Third Street location of Craft Pizza Co. is far removed from its past life with a smart, industrial chic design that incorporates a towering wall of firewood that reaches to the ceiling and a steel beam refashioned into a lighting fixture. The 65-seat dining room is anchored by a large 15-person table and also has a small bar with space for an additional five patrons. There is also an outdoor, covered eating space.
Craft Pizza Co.’s menu is a creative departure from the Italian comfort food of Al’s, with a condensed selection of starters and entrées. Any meal should start with an order of the fried Burrata ($10). The hunk of cream-filled fresh mozzarella is topped with a heap of basil pesto and literally melts in your mouth with each bite. The chorizo meatballs ($8) have an ample amount of heat. Craft’s white truffle fries ($7) have subtle flavoring and the small Caesar salad ($4) is surprisingly large.
Neapolitan-style pizzas require intense heat to bake properly, and that means employing a wood-fired brick oven. Brick ovens can reach temperatures over 800 degrees, making the cooking process faster and giving the resulting pies an airy, crispy crust with the telltale charred blisters. Specialty pies like the “Rise N’ Shine” ($11/15) are a looker and tasty, with color coming from sunny-side eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, and a drizzle of Tabasco aioli. The fig & prosciutto ($11/15) features a balsamic fig jam, gorgonzola and comes sprinkled with fresh rosemary. And the Brooklyn Bomber ($9/13) is a classic, with pepperoni, San Marzano tomatoes, oregano and
The menu is not only pizzas. There are sandwiches, like the meatball sub ($10) that incorporates the chorizo meatballs, and entrées. Craft’s beef bolognese ($15) is a hearty meat sauce that comes with soft gnocchi under bits of shaved parmigiano.
For dessert, the restaurant’s take on zeppole ($7), the sugary, deep-fried dessert, doesn’t come in the expected shape; the pastries are wedges instead of dough balls, but that doesn’t make them any less delectable.
Pizza Every Day Craft Pizza Co. is open daily for lunch and dinner, from 11:30 AM to 10 PM.
Craft Brew, Too Wine and beer are available, with numerous local brews on tap.
Elbow Room There are two large tables that can accommodate groups of a dozen or more.