Try pizza and Italian eats with a twist at this Alpharetta restaurant

One rainy Sunday, we found ourselves pulling into the parking lot at Crust Pasta & Pizzeria for a late afternoon lunch with the family. Having visited in the past on a bustling Friday night when the wait was easily in the one-hour-plus range, it was a happy surprise to find a parking spot right up front and a dining room much more subdued but no less welcoming and warm. A high, open ceiling painted black with large rustic wooden beams, a stacked-stone wall and industrial farmhouse lighting fixtures give it the feel of a casual Tuscan tavern—and that's no mistake. Owner/founder Darren Henderson was inspired by his travels to his ancestral home in Italy, and the menu reflects that accordingly, featuring Italian cuisine with a modern spin.

The menu may feel overwhelming at first, with a wide variety of options to choose from, ranging from antipasti, salads and soups to specials, pastas, “crustwiches” (sandwiches made out of pizza crust), pizzas and more. On our most recent visit, we started things off with the “arancini di riso”—fried risotto balls—piping hot, stuffed with tangy goat cheese and served with pomodoro sauce for dipping. (In the summer months, I go for the lighter caprese salad and relish the ripe sweet tomatoes and fresh mozzarella swirling in balsamic glaze and EVOO). Next up, try a little old-school meets new-school in the form of a chicken parmesan “crustwich”— breaded chicken topped with melty cheese and red sauce between pizza-crust flatbread for a hearty Italian sandwich.

The pasta dishes make for satisfying comfort food as well, but the hand-tossed pizza wins out every time for me thanks to its soft, pliable crust with a crispy edge. Specialty pies comes in 10 in., 16 in. and 18 in. sizes, and include simple options like a classic margherita that pleases all palates, as well as more complex creations like a BBQ chicken with a zesty barbecue sauce, smoky gouda, red onions and cilantro. Or craft your own pizza from a host of toppings to create your own idea of the perfect pie. Bonus: they also offer pizza by the slice—a big slice at that—if you don’t feel like polishing off an entire personal pizza. That, plus a side salad (or garlic knots if you need another dose of carbs and butter—no judgment, they’re worth it) and a draft beer from Jekyll Brewing make for a lazy Sunday lunch you’ll repeat time after time, rain or shine.

131 S. Main St., Alpharetta, (770) 777-6789,

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