Santa Cruz, California: Sicilian Style at Upper Crust Pizza

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[Photographs: Seth Mazow]

Upper Crust Pizza

2415 Mission Street, Santa Cruz CA 95060 (map); 831-423-9010; www.uppercrustsc.com
Pizza style: Sicilian
Oven type: Gas
The skinny: Great Sicilian pizza at the door to Santa Cruz
Price: Four-slice pizza starts at $7.90

When you enter Santa Cruz via the famed Pacific Coast Highway, you're greeted by a huge mural on the side of Upper Crust Pizza. The painting showcases Santa Cruz's beach with Upper Crust's building on the left, complete with a mini-version of the mural, which shows the beach and a tiny Upper Crust building with a mural on the side...It's the Droste effect in pizzeria form. I urge you to venture inside: Santa Cruz may be a laid back beach town, but Upper Crust's Sicilian slice is some hefty, serious stuff.

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If you order a variety of Sicilian pizzas, you'll notice that they're not cooked individually. Instead, they're cut from a larger sheet, which means that a square pizza doesn't necessarily have four delicious corner pieces.

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It's a shame, because the rich, fluffy crust is excellent. The exterior has a nice crunch, and the interior was pleasantly chewy. It's fairly sweet, but that's not a knock in my book. The best part of the crust is the magnificent end crust. Luxuriantly oily without a bitter aftertaste, the edges are crunchy and delicious.

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Edge pieces proved better than center pieces for containing the mass of cheese and toppings. Gooey cheese flowed freely and had a nice pull-factor. Each bite of the pizza had a generous portion of savory anchovies, perfectly browned mushrooms, and garlic.

On the pesto, black olive, and feta pizza, the pesto shares the stage with a sweet and peppery marinara sauce. Despite the plentiful marinara and pesto, the hefty crust manages to avoid getting too soggy.

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Upper Crust also offers what they call a "Sicilian Muffaletta" on thin sesame bread. The vegetarian option is stuffed with provolone, mozzarella, shredded carrots, and pesto and baked in the pizza oven. It has the consistency of a crisp NY-style slice folded over upon itself. The muffaletta didn't seem particularly Sicilian, Cajun, or sandwich-like, but it was quite tasty.

One could put away quite a few calories on Tuesday nights at Upper Crust: all-you-can eat-pizza is only $7.99. Given how good their Sicilian pies are, there are certainly worse ways to end a day at the beach.

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