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In Dining

One of the chef-created pizzas features artichoke, prosciutto, basil, asparagus, goat cheese and spiced tomato sauce. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining

All the pizzas are wood-fired in a huge brick oven. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining

With an industrial look and music pumping from a complex sound system, it wasn't surprising to find that the menu wasn't your typical stroll down pizza lane. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining

Much like Brady Street itself, the restaurant's clientele is a mixed bag. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining

Crisp is also a lounge, and is open daily. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

Crisp keeps pizza interesting on Brady St.


Milwaukee, like most cities, has never really had any sort of pizza shortage. Whether it's the classic cracker-thin crust from Zaffiro's you like, the thicker, doughy version at Pizza Shuttle or Joey Buena's deep-dish, there has always been a plethora of pie options.

But one thing we were largely missing, until recently, was a decent pizza-by-the-slice selection. It's a very metropolitan thing -- the concept of a bustling urban center with quick and delicious meal options available on-the-go for the city's movers and shakers.

Thankfully, a few years ago the trend began to shift in Milwaukee as new businesses arrived to offer interesting and affordable pizza for one. Classic Slice, Brick 3, Streetza and Ian's Pizza come to mind.

Now, a Brady Street newcomer should come to mind when you get a hankering for a hand-held lunch or dinner. Crisp Pizzabar & Lounge, which held its grand opening April 3, has taken over the long-vacant space left by Coco Bella, and previously Vucciria, at 1323 E. Brady St.

The space really works well for the street. Its large, airy, open-kitchen concept is modern and sleek -- it's another creation from Milwaukee's Flux Design crew -- and can easily accommodate a group of young barhoppers looking for a nightcap and a midnight snack, as well as young families looking to share a pizza in one of the many spacious booths lining the perimeter. Much like Brady Street itself, the restaurant's clientele is a mixed bag.

With a fully industrialized look and music pumping from a complex sound system, it wasn't surprising to find that the menu wasn't your typical stroll down pizza lane. What caught our eye right away were the plethora of specialty toppings to choose from, including homemade gyro sausage, garlic cream, roasted potatoes, eggs and walnuts, to name a few.

We opted for a No. 10, which features artichoke, prosciutto, basil, asparagus, goat cheese and spiced tomato sauce atop a savory, air-pocked filled crust that was a nice medium between thin crust and thick. The spiced tomato sauce stood true to its name; so much so that the shaker of red pepper flakes provided on the table remained untouched. But, if spice is not your thing, fear not. Other sauce options include the mild naked tomato sauce, basil cream sauce, extra virgin olive oil and BBQ sauce.

Owners Rob Settecase, Ian Pesch and Chris Grant wanted to make high quality pizza a priority for their new venture and Chef John Berge was their answer. Settecase says Berge has been working on a "Neapolitan fusion" menu to include simple, unique pizza that will appeal to the health conscious, meat-lovers and vegetarians alike.

After 15 years of culinary experience, Berge was intrigued by the opportunity to showcase his artistic take on food using the distinctive oven.

"The pie is wood-fired Neapolitan style and made with imported Italian flours," says Berge. "The flavor combinations are simple and endless. The chance to make simple, fusion inspired pizza in one amazing oven pushed my buttons."

While the pizza -- offered at $5 a slice, $10 for a personal size and $20 for a large with three toppings -- is the main focus of Crisp, the menu does not stop there. Starters include Jack Daniel's braised fire roasted ribs (served with Southern slaw), Crisp truffle dough sticks and homemade portobella fries with a tangy aioli dip. Sandwiches are semi-nontraditional: a Reuben, a lamburger and a turkey burger. There's also Guinness lamb and rib Irish stew available on the soup menu.

Crisp is also a lounge, featuring a full bar on each level and a spacious "smokers' deck" off the second floor mezzanine. Settecase says he plans to keep the kitchen open late -- until 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 1:30 a.m. Thursday though Saturday. Crisp is open daily.


Talkbacks

bistro6509 | Feb. 20, 2011 at 10:53 a.m. (report)

Went to Crisp last night with my fiance and another couple. None of had been there before, heard great things about it. The hostess seated us a table near the middle of the restaurant. Not overly busy. Waitress comes to our table and didn't introduce herself, asked if we wanted anything to drink. We ordered our drinks which took forever to get, luckily another staff member brought waters to the table. Once she brought our drinks, she did go over what the specials were and we placed our order. The food service does take a long time. Ordered sweet potato fries which were awesome, just took a long time. Pizza slices came to the table, not by the waitress. We didn't see our waitress until we half way through meal. We thought we better order another drink before we were completely done and not see the waitress again. Ambience was good, just could use more attentive people working there. Pizza wasn't bad, just thought the crust was a little chewy. Slices are quite large and it was very difficult to cut through the slices with the knife provided. Not sure I'll go back, maybe with time I will give them another chance.

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smallfry | Sept. 10, 2010 at 6:22 p.m. (report)

Experience at Crisp was totally lousy from the getgo. Our server seated us way in back next to the restrooms even thought the place was pretty much empty. She then ignored us and never came back. We eventually had to go up to the bar to ask for water and then kept waiting for her to come back and take our order. She then attended to a large group of people that came in after us and sat at the center table and took their drink orders before my friend went to find another waitress to help us. When she finally took our orders, she waited and waited for the soup and finally had to ask the manager for it. Incidentally, we watched her just stand around the bar talking to staff and not doing anything for a long time. The soup was tepid at best when she ended up bringing it out after the manager went to look into it. We also ordered pizza and salads, which were ok at best, but the salad orders were completely screwed up. We will never go there again as we were totally ignored and treated as an afterthought. Mediocre food does NOT make up for horrible customer service. Needless to say, would not recommend it unless you like being treated like trash.

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messier | Aug. 2, 2010 at 10:56 a.m. (report)

Actually I've been to Crisp twice and was pleasantly pleased on both occasions. Most recently I went there with a group of people (ages 24 - 50) and we all agreed that the Pizza was excellent (ok, I admit some bias as several of us are originally from NY and appreciate more of a NY style Pizza vs. the thin crust folks from Milwaukee call Pizza). The service staff was fun and accommodating. Overall I'd recommend Crisp.

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are-gee | July 12, 2010 at 3:36 p.m. (report)

Went there with friends on Father's Day (impromptu visit). My salad was missing advertised ingredients, the glasses sweated and left little pools of water all over the table, the pizza on display inside looked all dried out, and I couldn't tell whether our server was a complete ditz or just didn't give a crap (we suspected the latter). Was pissed when my husband abesentmindedly left her 20%. No plans to go back.

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Anon. | July 8, 2010 at 3:56 p.m. (report)

Will not go back. Poor service, a bizarre clientele, and mediocore food. There are plenty of places on Brady Street that I'd rather patronize.

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