What may seem gratifyingly simple and rustic to the end user often belies the demanding craft and unseen efforts that went into making it. That's the case all over Crescent Pie & Sausage, from the hand-hewn staples anchoring its menu to the attractive new building housing the Mid-City restaurant.
Crescent Pie & Sausage embraces and elevates some primal pleasures of the casual table: pizzas and sausage, as referenced in the name, but also brisket for a transcendent sandwich, puffy onion rings and crumbly crusted macaroni and cheese. There are some clever twists on these familiar dishes, especially the pizza. But most of all, the food shines from the copious use of house-made ingredients and a picky approach to fresh produce.
Local sourcing yields salad lettuces that crackle and pop between the teeth, and peppery-sharp arugula scattered over the hot coppa pizza, a palette of bubbly dough with curling slices of spicy, house-made salami and a sour drizzle of melted blue cheese. Pizzas are the showpieces, and they are not thrown-together efforts. Lusciously textured house-made ricotta cheese and bits of dark, flavorful chicken thighs define the Marsala pie, and the Mediterranean pizza is topped with lamb sausage, grill-marked eggplant and white streaks of goat cheese crema.
Crescent Pie & Sausage opened in December 2009, though there's been buzz about it for years. That's a tribute to the mileage co-owners Jeff Baron and Bart Bell logged serving food on the local festival and outdoor-event circuit, which helped stoke anticipation for their restaurant. They were closing in on that vision when the Banks Street building originally chosen for their project collapsed under Hurricane Gustav in 2008. They shifted gears, opened a breakfast joint called Huevos in a much smaller space next door, and started planning a new building from the ground up. The result is a real beauty, with a large covered deck for outdoor dining and lots of salvaged lumber from the original building worked into the lustrous, cypress-clad interior.
Local brewers are well-represented at the bar, and many exotic beers are served by the can at refreshingly modest prices. The dessert menu boasts an ice cream float made with Framboise beer, the Belgian raspberry lambic.
Consistency remains an issue with some items, however, and Natchitoches-style hand pies are plagued at times by undercooked, pasty shells. Also, while the Margherita pizza is done in the classic style, relying on fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil for practically all of its flavor, those last two ingredients have not yet hit their seasonal stride.
There's no doubting the goodness of the mixed-grill plate here, which is good as an entree or a shared appetizer. The changing components always feature diverse handiwork with the sausage grinder. One example combined a narrow, lean andouille link, thick slices of coppa and a stack of "little smokies," or fat, short plugs of coarse pork under sweet-hot syrup, plus a link of mild boudin.
That boudin speaks to Bell's upbringing along Bayou Teche, a Cajun cultural background he further venerates with fine country-style gumbo and an ever-so-rare example of a restaurant jambalaya worth ordering. Like so much at Crescent Pie & Sausage, these are inherently simple foods done uncommonly well.