Saturday, April 26, 2008

Taste of the Town: “The Upper Crust Pizzeria: Not your average pizza.”

“The pizza, I think, speaks for itself,” exclaims Michael Buchhalter, owner/manager of the Upper Crust Pizzeria in Salem (118 Washington Street, 978-741-2787). Buchhalter’s Salem location is the first franchise in the Upper Crust company, and is soon to be followed by shops in Watertown Square, Harvard Square, and Boston’s South End.

Founded in 2001, by then 24 year old Jordan Tobins, the Upper Crust serves traditional Neapolitan-style pizza in open kitchen settings; Neapolitan pizza consists of thin crust with chunky sauces. Tobins opened his first Upper Crust Pizzeria on Charles Street in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, a venture that he ‘single-handedly financed,’ says Buchhalter, a childhood friend of Tobins’. Since 2001, Upper Crusts have been opened in Lexington, Waltham, Hingham, Brookline, Boston’s Newbury Street, and even Key West, Florida; as well as the Salem franchise.
In an August 2007 Salem Gazette interview, Tobins describes the atmosphere in Salem as one of ‘renaissance.’ “Salem is one town that’s really growing,” Tobins told the Gazette, “there are a lot of wonderful new businesses, a lot of really great restaurants.” The Upper Crust’s Washington Street location shares an attractive courtyard with the Gulu-Gulu CafÈ and Fresh taste of Asia restaurants. Tobins says the courtyard “almost creates a little restaurant nook.”

Michael Buchhalter had to ‘be on his toes’ as he opened Salem’s Upper Crust in October, in the midst of the city’s annual Haunted Happenings events. Managing the Newbury Street location prepared Buchhalter for this venture, though, allowing for a ‘very successful’ first month of operation in Salem. Buchhalter realizes that ‘there is always room for improvement’ though. “[Brookline] has people lining up for lunch,” he said, “that’s what we want for Salem.” In addition to the 10 tables and six counter seats available inside the pizzeria, Salem’s Upper Crust is the first location to offer outdoor seating to be enjoyed in the warmer months.

With cooks that have prior Upper Crust experience, Salem tries to follow the lead of the pizzerias before it, while incorporating a sense of ‘personal service’ that is lacking in the take-out heavy Boston locations. The repeat customers are already a mainstay at Buchhalter’s Upper Crust. “[It’s] very comfortable,” he says. “[We] feel like we are part of the town.”

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