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Venue Review: Pure Pizza

Pizza with pizazz at Pure
Pure Pizza
By "Helen Schwab"
The Charlotte Observer

224 E. 7th St. in 7th St. Public Market; 980-207-0037

HITS: Ancient grain crust defies your expectation of whole-grain; chorizo combo is killer.

MISSES: Salad croutons; seating can be tight.

PRICES: About $6-$20 (for large pizza).

From plain crust to one of sprouted “ancient grain,” from toppings like housemade pesto to Dan the Pig Man’s smoked salmon, Pure Pizza is perfectly placed in the 7th Street Public Market.

It offers simple, accessible, reasonably quick-service food, served by friendly staff, in what’s essentially a food court. You’ve got your pepperoni pie and your plain cheese pie, and cans of soda in a cooler next to the counter.

Yet you also find seasonal pies, like thinly sliced sweet potato drizzled with cinnamon honey from the local Cloister Honey folk, tucked onto a pizza with smoked mozzarella, bacon from the market’s Meat & Fish Co., sweet corn from the market’s produce stand and a bit of tomato from Windcrest Farm (Monroe).

That was an Austin Crum recipe; he and Chris Reinhart are managers, says operating partner Juli Ghazi, but also recipe creators and beer choosers, and they make it all work. Reinhart’s name sounds familiar, you say? Of course: His uncle, Peter Reinhart, works for Johnson & Wales, has written a book about pizza in America and has knocked about area restaurant pizza crusts before.

Here he is consultant and minority partner, says Ghazi; Jeff Spry is her business partner. She and Spry had decided a couple of years ago to try a restaurant and found that quick-service pizza places were holding their own in the recession. They wanted to add a healthy perspective, and thought about pizzas that even someone with Type 1 diabetes (which has popped up in Spry’s family) could find appealing.

Enter Reinhart and a mix of quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and whole wheat that’s sprouted, then milled to max out nutritional value and digestive ease. (Pure’s gluten-free version omits the wheat.)

Even the plain crust is significant: organically grown unbleached bread flour, milled in North Carolina. (And the pepperoni is organic.)

Pizzas run about $10 (for a 10-inch) to $20 (for a 16-inch with add-ons). You can build your own, starting with a $9 base of cheese and sauce, adding a shifting lineup of toppings.

Salads come in small (about $6) and large ($10-$11), and a large feeds two. Dressings are made in-house, too, and salads draw from the market’s produce “as much as possible,” notes the menu. The Greek has lettuce, but lots of tomato and kalamata olives (purists note: they’re pitted), chunks of feta and a kalamata-feta vinaigrette. I wince only at the rock-hard croutons on the Caesar. The arugula sports a lemon vinaigrette that’s lovely and bright. Here, too, you can build your own, and shrimp and chicken are offered as proteins.

I like the smoked salmon pizza (think flaky, not cold-smoked), and the pesto, but the one that knocks me out is the chorizo: the spicy, crumbly sausage from Wild Turkey Farms (near China Grove), combined with tomato, mozzarella, onion, plus thin-sliced fresh radish, cilantro and lime wedges. Squeeze the lime atop this brilliant concoction and you’ve got something special.

Another nice twist: Tiny tubs of honey for dipping your crusts. One note: This pizza is markedly better if you eat it right away. You can get it takeout, but do try it straight from the oven.

You order at the counter, then pull up a seat or wander the market for a bit. I wouldn’t call it quick service, but that leaves more time to browse. (Be sure to check out the new cheese shop Orman’s.)

Pure has a generous spirit, just right for this growing uptown scene.

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9/27/2012 - The Charlotte Observer - Helen Schwab

Pure has a generous spirit, just right for this growing uptown scene.

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