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Incoming: Criscito Pizza

The pop-up’s Neapolitan- and New York–style pies find a permanent home in Carmel Valley
Criscito Pizza

Criscito Pizza

Eight hundred degrees has been the magic number for Philip Brynildsen’s wood-fired pizzeria, Criscito Pizza. His long-leavened doughs have been a staple at pop-ups outside breweries and apartment complexes across North County since 2013 and will receive a permanent home in Carmel Valley this summer.

Brynildsen was born in Brooklyn and raised in Jersey. His wife’s expanding career brought them to San Diego just before 2010. He had been a successful musician (he once toured with The Jonas Brothers), then established himself in finance. Ready to move on, he started pedaling through internet searches to uncover the tricks to emulating an East Coast pie. “Pizza is a big cultural thing in New Jersey—[it’s] like how you have taco shops everywhere out here,” he says.

Turns out one of the hacks to notable dough is long, slow fermentation at a cool temperature, which gives the yeast more time to break down molecules into intense flavors. The slower you go, the stronger the protein bonds in your dough become, giving your pizza that coveted chewy, crunchy bite.

The Googling segued into entrepreneurship. Eventually Brynildsen was catering pizzas like his NYC Cheese (grande mozzarella, parm, tomato sauce) and fan-favorite Honey Basil Garlic (honey, fresh garlic, mozzarella, parm, fresh basil) all over town.

“It’s an idea we were toying with for a while,” Brynildasen says of making the jump to a brick-and-mortar. “It’s a great central location for people who already know us. It’s accessible to the people we have catered to for the last decade.” The 1,200-square-foot restaurant is attached to the Torrey Gardens apartment complex and boasts a 1,500-square-foot patio. A white stucco interior, potted plants, and floods of natural light will channel coastal Italy.

A dual-level electric oven will produce two kinds of pizza: Neapolitan-style on the top deck and New York–style on the bottom. He’ll add a cheese-first tomato pie and a carnitas pizza with cilantro-lime sauce, Calabrian chilies, and fresh mozzarella. Plus salads.

“We’re putting a lot of effort into the salads,” he says. “We want the salads to be a meal, just in case people come in and don’t want pizza.” This could be a hefty selling point, because pizzerias have long been known for pitiful salads that are mostly a handful of iceberg, three shards of carrot, and a single cherry tomato (though modern pizzerias are upping their greens game).

“I don’t want there to be too much pressure or expectation,” Brynildsen emphasizes. “We want to be a part of the community and offer real hospitality to our guests. We are not corporate, so we don’t have to do anything cut and dry.”

Criscito Pizza’s permanent location opens this July.

By Jared Cross

Jared Cross is a writer who grew up near the US-Mexico border in San Diego. He credits this experience with refining his appetite for food and culture.

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