Friday, October 19, 2018
Dining

Restaurant review: Noble Crust’s second location is a boon to booming Wesley Chapel

WESLEY CHAPEL

Wesley Chapel is said to be one of the fastest growing areas in the country, due to the perfect cocktail of available and affordable land, broad but upwardly mobile demographics and easy access to other parts of Tampa Bay. And while malls and brick-and-mortar retail centers have taken a big hit in the past couple years, largely failing to stem the tide of online shopping, the Shops at Wiregrass is booming.

As in, I-had-to-troll-for-parking-for-20-minutes booming.

TJ Thielbar knew this, and banked on this, when in July he and partner Will Perez opened the second location of Noble Crust in the sprawling outdoor mall.

The first Noble Crust opened at the beginning of 2015 at the corner of Fourth Street and 83rd Avenue N in St. Petersburg, in the former spot of the Haymarket Pub and the Hideaway. It was an instant success, and still regularly runs at capacity, would-be diners spilling off the patio. Thielbar and partner John Mays, both previously operations managers for Bonefish Grill and executives at Hops Grill & Brewery, seemed to have a sense for what St. Pete diners were looking for: A funky, industrial ambience; full bar and lots of appealing seating options; a fair bit of noise and good cheer; and a menu that marries Italian and Southern food.

Say, what?

Overseen by Rob Reinsmith, a Pinellas County native, the menu features charmers like pimento cheese arancini and a pizza that paired Italian sausage with slow-cooked collards. It worked, the bar quickly matching the kitchen with skilled and innovative cocktails, and brunch becoming one of the most beloved in Pinellas.

Robís brother Colin Reinsmith is the chef at the new Wesley Chapel location, which looks a good bit like the flagship, industrial light fixtures juxtaposed with crystal chandeliers, open duct work, good use of brick in the bar and the wood-paneled front with "Noble Crust" emblazoned in a really cool lowercase font. Thielbar and team hired early for the Wiregrass location, training at least 10 people in the St. Pete shop before shipping them off, three Wiregrass managers having gotten their start at the original location.

Menus are nearly identical, with a couple of salad tweaks and a steak introduced in Wesley Chapel ó and for the most part the quality is fairly analogous. I would say that in a couple of visits the pizza crust isnít quite as good yet, the toppings sometimes heavy and a little wet, as in one eveningís Noble Pig ($18.50), something of a fetishized pie in St. Pete, crowding on pepperoni, sweet fennel sausage, spicy soppressata, pickled peppers, caramelized onions, tomato sauce, fontina and parm. Less of all of that would have been more, the crust struggling to stay crisp.

Some of my favorite dishes were the little ramekin of herb-topped whipped ricotta with wedges of olive oil-glossed baked pizza dough flecked with rosemary ($7); the cast-iron skillet of tender little veal and pork meatballs in a pool of lively tomato sauce and capped with a flurry of basil and parm, ricotta enriching the whole shebang ($12); and a simple side of fried green tomatoes paired with an oddly logical lime yogurt ($6).

With family-friendly Pincherís Crab Shack right next door and sports-and-beer-centric Irish 31 across the way, Noble Crust seems to have emerged as a girlsí night destination and date-night spot, the food conducive to sharing and mix-and-match. This may also be a reflection of the barís strengths, with well-chosen wines on tap, silly-fun cocktails (a watermelon smash and a creamsicle slush with St. Pete Distillery Tipplerís Orange; both $9), and suavely executed classics like old fashioneds (High West Double Rye with candied pecan-infused vermouth, $12), rickies and brambles.

Waits can be long, especially for brunch, and occasionally there are service stutters where dishes pile up or coyly take a while to show. Thatís just par for the course at a new restaurant, even one with a more established sibling to the south. Noble Crust is clearly a boon to a town thatís booming.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley. She dines anonymously and unannounced;
the Times pays all expenses.

     
         
Comments
Is the annual pass worth it? As Disney changes pricing system, we help you decide

Is the annual pass worth it? As Disney changes pricing system, we help you decide

Though costly, annual passes at Disney World, Universal, Busch Gardens and other parks can sometimes be a smarter choice. You just have to know what you’re getting.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dr. BBQ opens to the public today. Hereís a look.

Dr. BBQ opens to the public today. Hereís a look.

ST. PETERSBURGDr. BBQ needed a beer. Mission accomplished: A sip of Green Benchís Dr. BBQ Pale Lager dispatched, he was ready to start the tour. See that teal tufted couch against that wall? Itís like something from Girl & the Goat in Chicago. The wo...
Published: 10/17/18
What I learned about food by eating a 27-course meal at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns

What I learned about food by eating a 27-course meal at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns

A recent trip to upstate New York provided the perfect excuse to try the renowned chef’s restaurant, and a once-in-a-lifetime meal.
Published: 10/17/18
Recipe for bread pudding with bourbon sauce

Recipe for bread pudding with bourbon sauce

Enjoy a taste of the Big Easy with Bourbon Bread Pudding With Bourbon Sauce.
Published: 10/17/18
Realignment at Big Bend intersection promises safer traffic flow after construction headaches

Realignment at Big Bend intersection promises safer traffic flow after construction headaches

GIBSONTON – A new north-south road is coming to relieve traffic along U.S. 301, but making way for it promises some short-term traffic headaches for a South Shore region already stymied by congestion.The new road would run more than four miles...
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/17/18
From the food editor: A carrot coconut soup from Chrissy Teigen’s second ‘Cravings’ cookbook

From the food editor: A carrot coconut soup from Chrissy Teigen’s second ‘Cravings’ cookbook

This bright, vegetable soup was inspired by a recent farm meal.
Published: 10/16/18
After more than two decades, Davis Islands' 220 East still brings its A game

After more than two decades, Davis Islands' 220 East still brings its A game

220 East on Davis Islands is a rarity, a restaurant that has stood the test of time but still ably caters to local tastes.
Published: 10/15/18
Taste test: Pumpkin spice cereal

Taste test: Pumpkin spice cereal

Our panelists spent a lot of time this season sampling pumpkin spice-flavored foods.
Published: 10/15/18
Where to find Tampa Bay Halloween parties, pumpkin patches and events

Where to find Tampa Bay Halloween parties, pumpkin patches and events

Experience everything from kid-friendly events to horrifying haunted houses to spooky art projects this weekend in Tampa Bay.
Published: 10/11/18
Top things to do this weekend Eddie Izzard, A Night at the Museum, birding and nature festival, Sesame Street Live and more

Top things to do this weekend Eddie Izzard, A Night at the Museum, birding and nature festival, Sesame Street Live and more

Catch a comedian reflect on his life, spend a wild night at the museum and go birding this weekend.
Published: 10/10/18
Updated: 10/12/18