This Hole-in-the-Wall Life
A million-dollar balloon. The imminent closing of Wild Rivers. Crony-loving, no-bid-contract-granting City Council members. Irvine isn't exactly endearing itself to the rest of Orange County these days. But there's one thing that can redeem the land of Agran: New York's Upper Crust Pizza.
This mini-chain (other locations stand in Foothill Ranch, Laguna Niguel and Long Beach) specializes in pizza by the slice, Brooklyn-style. Ordering is simple: Pizzas sit behind a glass counter, awaiting your finger-point. They're fresh, having been cooked just a couple of minutes ago, but the cooks will stick your slice (or slices) back in the oven for a couple of minutes to let the cheese melt just so. They slip it onto a paper plate; you get to dust on the pepper flakes, oregano and crumbled cheese.
Though New York's Upper Crust Pizza boasts that one of its specialties is "gourmet" pizza, you can find their choices at any neighborhood pizzeria: meat lovers, barbecue chicken, vegetarian, pesto. And some of the "gourmet" toppings are resolutely prole—the last time anyone thought pineapple was a novelty, Dole was still a New England fruit wildcatter. But the restaurant makes up for its presumptuousness with quality. The sauces are prepped daily and sprinkled on the dough in a way that fulfills but doesn't flood your taste buds. The white pizza is a great example: The ricotta cheese is mild enough to allow you a taste of the mozzarella and provolone underneath, while sun-dried tomatoes give you a jolt. New York's Upper Crust Pizza could pile fewer ingredients on some of their pizzas—the Greek variety, with feta, onions, tomatoes and artichoke hearts, will make you look like a chipmunk after one bite—but that's a quibble; all the choices excel. And the thin crust preparation guarantees snappy fun!
New York's Upper Crust Pizza also sells salads and pastas, but skip those—I'm sure they're excellent, but other foodstuffs demand a faster response. Start with the stromboli, an impressive loaf of dough, cheese and four meats that looks like a calzone (which they sell) transformed into a sub (also available). A bit less imposing but no less delicious are the "rolls": fist-sized dough half-cones baked to a golden-brown bliss; they're so dense, you can chuck one of these at someone and leave a deep bruise. But be more careful with the garlic knots. These lengths of twisted leftover dough sprinkled with garlic and parsley appear as light as Fritos, but eat just a couple and you'll be left with an unfinished main meal—not such a bad fate, however, considering the miracle of leftovers.
NEW YORK'S UPPER CRUST PIZZA, 5613 ALTON PKWY., IRVINE, (949) 653-1033; ALSO AT 28051-B GREENFIELD DR., LAGUNA NIGUEL, (949) 831-4300; 26612-F TOWN CENTRE DR., FOOTHILL RANCH, (949) 951-7400; 5291 E. SECOND ST., LONG BEACH, (562) 987-4700; WWW.NYUPPERCRUSTPIZZA.COM.
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