WHAT’S NEW?: Just Crust hits Harvard Square

JustCrustThe Just Crust, handing out free pizza from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, June 8, knows that there’s a lot more to their business than making dough. Rising from the ashes of the fallen foodie favorite chain The Upper Crust, Harvard Square’s new establishment is fully committed to doing pizza justice.

After a series of controversial and highly publicized lawsuits involving illegal and immoral employment tactics, The Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy and failed to find investors before they were forced to foreclose. Its locations throughout the greater Boston area were put up for auction, where Harvard Law graduate Shannon Liss-Riordan outbid former owner Jordan Tobins for the space at 49 Brattle Street.

As the same attorney who represented Upper Crust workers during their case against the company back in October, Riordan was determined to build and successfully run a model workplace for employees. In an effort to execute this vision, The Just Crust joined Rock United restaurant group, which guarantees all workers fair wages as well as vesting both part and full-time staff members into the company after six months of service. It requires management to make what they believe to be a worthwhile sacrifice, as 25 percent of the total profit goes directly back to those who keep things running smoothly on a day-to-day basis. This drastic turnaround has led to the hiring of hard working and dedicated former Upper Crust employees, who now make up nearly half of the current staff.

The Just Crust clearly has a passion for quality, and though it’s been only a few days since its soft opening last week, patrons have already taken notice. “Customers have been stopping in to congratulate us and thank us for what we’re doing,” says operations manager Patrick Joyce. “They’re excited about our mission, but they also really love the pizza.”

Joyce explains that unlike Upper Crust, The Just Crust uses ingredients that are all organic and sourced from local New England farms. Each thin, crispy and delicious slice begins with hand-rolled pizza dough. “Our flour is more substantial than what most people use,” he says. Thinner flour leads to a crust that’s too thick and chewy or too flimsy to support the sauce, cheese and toppings, which are only highlighted when supported by the proper base.

In terms of the menu, The Just Crust’s simple, artisanal offerings that change seasonally. A smaller selection allows the focus to be on execution and making sure that every slice is perfect.  Though all the choices are tasty, Joyce reveals that the Margherita pizza is his personal favorite. The homemade sauce is perfectly balanced by the melted mozzarella cheese, while a sprinkling of fresh basil gives it a zesty edge. If you’re looking for something less traditional, try the roasted asparagus, hand-sliced imported prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano cheese pizza topped with a farm fresh egg. Of course, there’s always the classic cheese or spicy pepperoni, which are sold by the slice along with the daily special. No matter what you decide, you’re sure to enjoy, especially if you pair it with one of the locally brewed beers they have on tap.

With the current venture already showing signs of success, plans for expansion are in the works. The lease for a second location in Brookline was just signed, and if all goes well, they just might set up shop in a neighborhood near you. –Alessia Antonucci

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