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The downtown Roanoke restaurant's pizza toppings include fig, arugula, goat cheese and kale.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
The arugula and fig pizza features herb infused olive oil, local arugula, dried figs, bacon, balsamic reduction, shaved romano, and slivered almonds.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Cork & Crust at 16 West Marketplace in downtown Roanoke features 28 bottles of beer in addition to six on tap.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
What is America’s favorite food? A quick computer search turns up a solid, and not surprising, winner: pizza . There are nearly 50 phone listings for pizza places in the Roanoke Valley , but Cork & Crust, a new pizzeria in downtown Roanoke, is anything but the same old thing.
The restaurant is located inside 16 West Marketplace on Church Avenue. Partners Mark Linson and Amelia Glaser opened the pizzeria in April, six months after opening S & W Market in the adjacent space. Glaser has since moved on, but Linson and his staff continue to offer gourmet groceries, prepared foods, beer and wine, and artisan pizzas.
Colorful flags and a sidewalk sign made it easy to spot 16 West Marketplace on my first visit for lunch with a friend. We headed into the busy space, which houses a variety of shops and businesses, and made our way to the little pizzeria in the back , which is open to the rest of the space. Walls are a warm terra cotta and feature artwork and a mural by local artists. There is a bar with stools, and three booths, two of which are large enough to comfortably seat six. Additional seating is found in front of the S & W Market and on the sidewalk in front of the building.
Cork & Crust diners choose from 10 pizzas with names like Toscana, The Simple, and The Beet-n-Goat . You can also design your own pie, choosing from 25 different toppings ($1 per topping). The toppings range from traditional (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms) to more current trends (kale, artichokes, roasted garlic). Pizzas are offered in two sizes: 8-inch ($6 to $9) and 12-inch ($10 to $14).
My friend chose an 8-inch Classic ($9) topped with cheese, sausage, and pepperoni. I decided on the Rustic ($9) topped with roasted garlic, mushrooms, roasted red pepper, caramelized onions, fresh thyme, and house-made mozzarella. When our pizzas arrived at the table, their look and aroma told me we were in for a treat. The crust is thin, but not too thin, offering a good balance between crisp and chewy. The flavor of my pizza was wonderfully complex, with sweetness from the onions and garlic, earthiness from the roasted mushrooms, and a mild, creamy tang from the house-made mozzarella. My friend appreciated the flavor and quality of the sausage and pepperoni on her pizza.
Later that week, I was back to pick up pizzas for dinner. As I sat at the bar, I got the chance to check out the chalkboard list of wines by the glass ($5 to $7) and craft beers on tap ($3 to $5). There is also a list of over 30 bottled beers. While I waited, I enjoyed a glass of Las Lilas Vinho Verde ($5), a light, slightly effervescent Portuguese white wine that is perfect for summer. A nice benefit of having the S&W Market attached to the pizzeria is being able to purchase a bottle of wine or six-pack of craft beer that you’ve enjoyed at the restaurant.
I took home two small pizzas, a Margherita ($8), with basil pesto, spinach, fresh tomato, and house mozzarella, and a Sriracha Chicken ($9) with chicken breast, charred red onion, spinach, and oven dried tomatoes. The Margherita was light and featured the summery flavors of fresh basil and tomato. The Sriracha Chicken pizza had generous toppings and just the right amount of heat.
Most recently, I joined friends on a Friday for dinner and drinks at the restaurant. Our server was friendly and attentive, and gave great descriptions and samples to help with our craft beer selections. We shared a variety of 8-inch pizzas, including the Toscana ($9) with kale, artichokes, olive tapenade and house mozzarella, and the “Big Apple”($9) with applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, kale, and aged white cheddar. Both were big hits, but the favorite pizza of the evening was the Arugula and Fig. The combination of peppery arugula, sweet dried figs, bacon, balsamic reduction, almonds, and salty Romano cheese inspired “oohs” and “ ahhhs” and plans to return soon.
Cork & Crust owner Linson brings local ingredients and an experienced chef’s sensibilities to the art of pizza making. The pies may cost more for their size than typical restaurant pizzas, but Linson’s attention to detail, great flavor combinations, and top quality ingredients make his pizzas something special.
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