Nathan and Bonnie Shea bought the 1006 E. 15th St. building in historic downtown Plano in 2007, and began filling it with mouth-watering aromas from their authentic Italian oven when they opened Urban Crust two years later.
In the 1800s the building was a harness and saddle shop. The Sheas said they wanted to blend its history with an urban flair. A bridle at the staircase corner serves as a reminder of the building’s past.
“I love food. I have a passion for food,” said Nathan, who owns a wood-fired oven at his home. “I had this crust in mind—crispy crust but a little chewy on the inside.”
The Sheas brought in Salvatore Gisellu, former owner of Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill in downtown Dallas, for his expertise in authentic Italian cuisine. Gisellu calls Urban Crust’s oven his “Ferrari with two doors.” The oven features two sections—one for pizzas and the other for entrees. As for baking the right crust, Gisellu and the Sheas worked at the Sheas’ home oven for six months before they found the right blend.
Shea’s Eastside ($13.90) includes fire-roasted chicken, mozzarella, caramelized onions and sun-dried tomatoes.[/caption]
“It was all about the crust and fresh ingredients,” Gisellu said.
The restaurant branched into the catering business in 2011. Its two mobile wood-fired ovens allow Urban Crust to serve hot pizza at wedding venues and corporate events.
Gisellu plans the restaurant’s daily menus, wine and beer pairings for tastings and monthly three- to five-course dinners. Born and raised in Sardinia, Italy, he worked his way up in the restaurant business. At Urban Crust, he dons his chef’s hat and stretches the dough, tossing it into the air and catching it in his hands. Gisellu then applies sauce and sprinkles toppings before sliding the pizza into the oven.
“[The] heart of the restaurant is the oven,” Gisellu said.
Gisellu said he sees customers—from corporate employees to families and young couples on date night.
The wood-fired bocconcini ($5.90) features fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic and baby portobello mushrooms.[/caption]
“When I stepped on[to] the sidewalk here in downtown Plano it took me a couple of seconds, but I saw the vision that Bonnie and Nathan had,” he said.
Nathan and Gisellu’s favorite pizza is The Godfather, which features tomato sauce, hand-strung mozzarella and anchovies. Other dishes include the Black and Blue pizza, made with basil pesto, baby portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, blue cheese and wood-fired sirloin.
The bustle of downtown motivated the Sheas and Gisellu to create nearby Tex-Mex restaurant Urban Rio Cantina and Grill in 2012.
“Urban Crust and Urban Rio—these are our babies,” Nathan said.
Urban Crust Chef Salvatore Gisellu is also the executive chef at Urban Rio Cantina and Grill.[/caption]