Chef Interview With Chef Charlie Meola Of Crust Pizzeria ~ Carlsbad

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Chef Charlie Meola of Crust Pizzeria in Carlsbad recently. You can also see my article on Crust HERE.

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Chef Meola working at his craft.

 I know you started in NY correct?

Yes.

Can you tell me what your seminal moment was or what made you decide you wanted to pursue being a Chef?

Basically I was 13, started off as a dishwasher, went to counter, went to prep, went to sandwiches and basically learned the whole thing. But at that point and time I did not realize this is what I want to do forever. I enjoyed it but I was going to college.

At The University of Arizona right?

Ended going to University of Arizona. Went for three years, did not graduate. I started bartending, making really good money. I worked from 81 to 87 bartending. At that time I kind of realized there are not many old bartenders around, so maybe I need to look for something else.

I was just driving down the road and saw a pizza place for sale. I called the guy made a deal. Then I put two weeks of renovation in it and opened up. I owned it for 26 years, I just sold it about two years ago.

After That?

Went to Alabama, opened up two restaurants in Alabama. I did not like Alabama at all. Then I came here and opened this.

So the moment I realized I wanted to do this was in 88, when I opened up that pizzeria. The goal became just to make pizza better. With the basis of knowledge I already knew I knew I could do it.

Basically for 5 years from 88 to 93 I strived for that. I went on to resource different products from different parts of the country. Research and development trying this and trying that. Still to this day I do the same thing.

What I tell people who come in, like if a purveyor walks in I say “if you’re here to try to save me money and lessen my product, we are wasting each other’s time”. “If you are here to make my product better we can talk.” If you’re here to make my product better and save me money, that’s the cu de gras.”

I’m open to making it better and paying more as opposed to going the other way. I have fights with my accountant on how much I pay for cheese.

When I had my pizzeria in Tucson the Montage in Laguna Beach would fly me out to make pizza for the Chefs who were cooking for the James Beard Award Dinners. So, I cooked for Alex Stratta, Nancy Silverton, these top chefs in Southern California. That’s really it. The integrity of the food the craft are the most important things.

Editor’s Note: making pizza for Nancy Silverton (Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza..) is damn impressive. Just had to say that.

That’s about it, I have noticed now that it’s not all about food it’s about service too. When I started service was an afterthought. I was just in Mexico and noticed how people would be waiting an hour and a half for their food and not even care. Here people 15 min. and want it for free. You are a product of your environment and have to adapt.

Tell me about the products you use.

It’s real simple I keep rules to certain things. I just changed my tomato sauce for the first time in 28 years. These guys from Italy came in, brought some Italian tomatoes. I put what I was using, which was Escalon, next to this Sanyo(sp), it’s a Campagnia tomato, and I was like “this is better I’m gonna buy them.” That’s a big change to make.

You have your three bases your dough, your sauce, and your cheese. That’s your foundation. To change one of those is a big move. You can change your mushroom.

Or your pepperoni

Actually not, we buy Boars Head, which is $5.99 a pound where I could be getting it for $2.00. We get our sausage from a guy named Phil Scimeca who owns a little sausage shop. I met him in Alabama. I get goat cheese from a lady who makes goat cheese. I know everyone goes local and I would if I could find a product that equals. I’m all go local for vegetables, but if I’m going to buy a cheese…. I actually brought my Italian sausage to a guy in little Italy and said “can you duplicate this” and he said no.

Every day we make our own dough, all our salad dressings from scratch everything.

On a side note Chef also dabbles in photography. I was admiring the Surf photography on the wall, thinking it was Aaron Chang’s work, nope it turned out to be his. When you go there check it out, it’s really good.

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 So, there you have it Chef Charlie Meola of Crust Pizzeria. It always interest me to talk with Chefs. You go to someplace that is really good and then learn in talking with the Chef, oh that’s why. Plus as a food writer you have to listen and learn.

Crust Pizzeria

3263 Camino De Los Coches

Beltane RanchWine Dinner Report, The Miller’s Table ~ Oceanside

So, first off hung over, second off probably one of the best wine dinners I have been to…and I have been to a lot.

The thing that set it off was the quality of the wine, the wine maker, which I will expand on and the company, both staff and attendees.

The one thing that the miller’s Table does right (actually they do a lot of things right) is create a warm communal atmosphere. I had fun, I actually had an experience that will go into my mental book as “Yep, I liked that”

Lets start with the players….

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Right to left (yep going in reverse) ~ Gideon Ezra Moore ( I am friends with his brother and both are talented as hell), Anthony ( who is insanely talented and a hard ass working mother fucker..there will be cursing) in the middle we have Stacy Miller (hence the name) owner / proprietor / Chef / all around awesome person, Next the Beltane team wife and husband, Chef and Wine maker Joy and Kevin. They were new to me but so impressed.

 

Ok, so the wine. the biggest take away was their wines were great and balanced. That is what I look for in a wine ..balance from top note to finish.

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So, I started with whites as a wine nube and then got into really hard reds and blends (I love me some blends). Now I am back to whites and rose. This was the 2104 Estate Sauvignon Blanc “Drummond Block” This is a good wine.

 

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“Barbeque” Fried Cauliflower

So this was Cauliflower in an egg wash and deep-fried, topped with herbs. The thing I liked (and this goes for all Chef Joys dishes) she respected the vegetable. It did not taste fried, tons of natural flavor. I ate like 10 of these:)

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Crab Deviled Eggs ~ Charred redicchio and winter greens, Prager brothers baguette.

So, devil eggs strike fear into my heart for a few reasons…one to many holiday with white trash versions and now hipster overplayed. These were none of those, they were fresh and light. Now the star of this dish was the veg. Again Chef Joy shines at vegetables. The redicchio was charred which lent a lot to offsetting the bitterness (bitterness is a good thing by the way and countered the sweetness of the crab.)

rib-1-of-1 Braised Beef Short Rib ~ Winter Beans and root vegetables.

Another great dish. Perfect fork tender short ribs and again the veg. It was sweet and rich meat against perfect al dente beans.

served with 2013 Zinfandel “Heins Block”

I am not a fan of zins Opal does some great ones as do these guys. Well balanced (see again with that word) This was a big wine and a perfect pair with the rib. Chocolate and fruit..basically everything good.

 

Lets talk Cheese plate..a simple thing yet not.

Two words “Smoked honey” forget what you know because that will change your life …this is what I compare all honey to now going forward.

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Cheese plate

So look everything was great but I wanna direct your attention to the cheese in the upper left and the honey in the middle..that shit will change your life.

Again served with another great wine 2014 Fume Bob. I would say not a dessert wine and not a resling ..kinda inbetween..another great wine.

So, I do not want to gush but I think this was one of the best dinners I have been to. And (yep I started with and, get over it) this was one of my favorites. The reason the Chef and Wine Maker from Beltane and of course the crew from Miller’s Table, but also the guests. Everyone was into it.

If this was a start to 2017 I am down:)

Beltane Ranch

Miller’s Table

Oh, and by the way this was one of my favorite things to write about:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Supper Club Artist Project – Oceanside

The Supper Club Artist Project – A new three-part series of events designed to provide meaningful experiences through education and community involvement in order to help  establish a long-lasting appreciation for the arts.  Presented by The Hill Street Country Club.

I was excited to get involved with this event because I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a collaboration between the rising culinary talent in Oceanside and the Art community, which Hill Street Country Club has been championing in the city.

In addition to featuring the beautiful Photographs of Artist Johnny Nguyen the series really touches on our relationship with food and food vendors as a community. It also marks the inaugural event for Hill Street’s new galley in Artist Alley.

Songs Of Green Bird

In this new work entitled, “Songs of the Green Bird” Johnny Nguyen exhibits a photographic series documenting an open air Vietnamese Market supported by its surrounding community.

Part I: Educate: Pop-Up Art Workshop

Thursday, Jan. 2nd 2014 (All Day)
@ Mainstreet Farmers Market & Sunset Market Oceanside

Participate in an Artist lead workshop and learn how to approach photography with a photojournalistic eye.

Part II: Appreciate: Opening Reception

Saturday, Jan. 18th 2014 (6-10)
@ The Hill Street Country Club Gallery, Oceanside

Opening reception for “Songs of the Green Bird” including photos from Jan 2nd’s pop up workshop via digital slide show.

Food provided by Chef Davin Waite of Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub and Chef Beau Bonham of Truffle Trike with beer by Booze Brothers Brewery.

Part III: Celebrate: Grand Supper Party

Sunday, Feb. 23rd 2014 (6 pm)
@ The Hill Street Country Club Gallery, Oceanside

Celebrate the closing of the show by enjoying a pot luck dinner while participating in conversations on topics about art and community. Event to be recorded and podcast.

Main Dishes provided by Chef Davin Waite of Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub and Chef Beau Bonham of Truffle Trike .

I personally can not wait for this series. I think it will do a lot for the promotion of the art and food cultures in Oceanside………plus it’s just going to be really damn cool.

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