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Photo by Kevin A. Roberts
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If you haven't been to Crushed Red, here's how it works: You step into line, order a single serve pizza, request a salad--it's immediately chopped (see left), plated, and handed back to you--then perhaps order a soup or a bottle of beer or glass of wine, pay at the register, and find a seat. Take about two bites of your salad and your pizza appears. Impressive, as is the speed-to-quality ratio. Don't look now, but Chris LaRocca's Crushed Red just put the "fast" back in fast casual and Clayton diners with limited time on their hands now had a new best friend.
Crushed Red, Urban Bake & Chop Shop was arguably the most successful restaurant to open in St. Louis in 2012. During the first couple months, it was so busy during the noon hour the Clayton police had to direct traffic in front of the flagship location at 8007 Maryland (the corner of Maryland and Meramec).
SLM took a First Look at Crushed Red about this time last year and were duly impressed. And after just one month, co-owner Chris LaRocca was scouting for another location...or two.
Done and done.
Crushed Red will be coming to Kirkwood in April, taking over the Pazzo's Pizzeria location at 140 S. Kirkwood Rd, the corner bay in the Kirkwood Station Plaza, joining Bar Louie, Kaldi's Coffee, Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe. Mike Del Pietro opened Pazzo's 15 months ago, but because of [insert reason for a restaurant's failure here], it never gained traction. Our only objection was its lack of warmth, although concrete floors, hard chairs, and minimal art have spelled success elsewhere. Regardless, Pazzo's last night of service will be tomorrow, January 26. Del Pietro says that all employees seeking relocation will be placed at one of his other restaurants (Sugo's, Babbo's, Via Vino).
When LaRocca was asked if he was planning anything different this go round, he said "only minor changes," like increasing the number of salad "choppers" from four to five. The finishing island will be enhanced and made more prominent, according to LaRocca, so it will look more like "the condiment area it is, and less like a drop area. Right now, people aren't quite sure what to do there." The Kirkwood location is the exact same size as Clayton's: 3100 SF and 100 seats.
And if all goes well with liquor hearings, Crushed Red #3 will bow this June in the former Pasta House space at 313 N. Euclid in the CWE, vacant since mid-2010. There had been some issues with restaurants seeking such approval there in the past, but LaRocca feels strongly that Crushed Red's minimal-alcohol format and early hours "will be far more acceptable" than the other concepts preceding it, adding "you know, I can't think of a better use for that space."