Krescendo might make the perfect K-name for the forthcoming KimYe spawn. Like the Kardashians, this Atlantic Avenue pizzeria has West Coast roots and some strong ties to reality TV: Chef Elizabeth Falkner earned her stripes at San Francisco’s sweet spot Citizen Cake and then competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. At Krescendo, her savory signature dish is the Finocchio Flower Power pizza, which evokes the California breeze with an anise-laced trifecta of braised fennel, fennel sausage, and feathery fennel fronds. Chili powder balances the sweet vegetables with a bit of heat, shaved provolone brings sharpness, and grassy olive oil adds richness to this otherwise dry, tomato-free pie. The thin crust of her Californication pizza sags a bit under the weight of its generous toppings: creamy mozzarella and goat cheese, nutty walnut-arugula pesto, spicy Padron peppers and fresh arugula leaves with a drizzle of honey. Despite Falkner’s pastry chef background, she goes easy on the sweetness here—it’s not nearly as bold as the hot honey or bacon marmalade that Paulie Gee has been slathering on his magical Greenpoint pizza for years.
Krescendo’s long, wide, high-ceilinged space has plenty of elbowroom between tables, making it at once more glamorous and less intimate than your typical pizza joint. To warm things up, Falkner—easy to spot with her spiky platinum hair—traipses through the ample space to greet the regulars. The pizzas can take a while to come out, but you can whet your appetite with the crispy salt cod fritters encircled with cannellini beans, fresh mint, salad greens, briny olives and crunchy celery. The fresh flavors of the purple kale salad are right on target—raw, earthy greens perked up by salty ricotta salata, sweet maple-candied pancetta, and a rich yet tart lemon-egg vinaigrette—but the textures of the fibrous greens and tough pancetta were almost too chewy for us to enjoy. Our house cocktails made with basil-infused gin or rosemary-infused vodka were on the syrupy side, so your pizza might be better paired with a beer.
Like all the best California cooking, the food here lets simple ingredients shine—but there are often a lot of ingredients shining at once. Desserts are Chef Falkner’s thing, and it shows in her richly sweet pistachio sponge cake, which came with as many embellishments as the pizzas: ricotta cream, tangerine sorbet, candied citrus, Campari-soaked cherries, chocolate and marzipan. The result was tasty, if a bit overwhelming at the end of a lengthy, beer-fueled meal. For chocolate lovers, the cool and creamy gianduja semifreddo over a sbrosolona (that is, a crunchy Italian tart) with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, cocoa nibs and candied hazelnuts is the way to go.