If looking to dine on authentic Italian recipes like Nonna used to make, then Crust Artisan Bakery is awaiting your arrival. “This is a family owned and operated business. My brother Luke and mother Louise are involved as well”, explained owner Mark Fressell, who with his wife Kim founded Crust Artisan Bakery on the south side of U.S. Highway 98 in Santa Rosa Beach’s Shoppes of South Haven in 2012.
As South Walton residents, Kim and Mark knew the niche they were trying to fill and have been successfully drawing in the local crowd with tourists soon following. Emeril Lagasse caught wind of the small restaurant with old-world charm, and included Crust on Emeril’s Florida, currently airing on the Cooking Channel. Recently renovated interiors ,and an expansion of the exterior deck accommodate patrons seeking the in demand cuisine.
Working 26 years in the restaurant industry, Kim studied artisan bread baking at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Mark, a retired engineer, grew up in a big Italian family passionate about cooking, and says, ”We are committed to incorporating artisan techniques and using the proper equipment necessary to make our breads, Neapolitan style pizza, pastries, and pastas. Whenever possible, we source produce and specialty items from local growers, and we sell our own products at the Seaside Farmers Market and Grand Blvd Farmers Market each Saturday, and at the Rosemary Beach Farmers Market, as well as the WaterColor Farmers each Sunday.
About a year and a half ago, Kim and Mark hired the talented Chef Lock to join their vested team. Lock decided to move to Santa Rosa Beach from New York City with his wife Cheryl after visiting the area, and his daughter also wanted to attend school in Florida. Chef Lock says, “We do not use deep fryers, microwaves and nothing is frozen. All of the ingredients are fresh with no product preservatives!”
The aromas of the fresh-baked goods, slow braised meats, and seafood stock simmering on the stove for Chef Lock’s specialty house made gumbo will draw hungry diners in from the parking lot at Crust. “The pizza is hand tossed, wood fired and oven baked at 700 degrees, though it can get to 1000 at times. It only takes 3-4 minutes for them to cook, and we don’t cut them. They are eaten with fork and knife, European style”, says Mark. I indulged in one of the decadent fruit filled incredible cruffins (croissant/muffin) and a beautiful flaky, buttery croissant, followed by the Pizza Margherita topped with tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. Kim says, “All our recipes have a deep family origin. Mark’s great grandmother immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1902, and we use her meatball recipe. It is one of our most popular dishes“
The owners and staff arrive by 9:30 am each morning to meet in the kitchen and discuss the days innovative menu planning and to get creative while deciding what will be fresh and new on the menus served at the 5-course chef-tasting table (seats six), or in the dining room family style. “Using King Arthur unbleached single silo flour is important as our pasta is finished by hand and made Northern Italian style. We prepare dishes based on customer’s likes and dislikes and cater to them in the restaurant as well as their homes. If a diner asks for a 3-course tasting, I will use our ingredients on hand to impress them with something unique and special. It is a great feeling to create and plate on the spot,” says Chef Lock.
Mark jumps in saying, ““The difference between good and exceptional is from a little, to a lot of know how! We believe in hard work, raising the bar, pushing the envelope, creating new dishes, and going above and beyond!”
Crust Artisan Bakery is located in the Shoppes of South Haven at 4821 Hwy 98 West Suite 101, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 11AM – 3PM. Dinner is served seven nights a week 5 to 9 PM. For reservations, catering and more information, please call (850) 622-1022.
Susan Benton is a food and travel journalist with published articles and photography in many local, regional and national publications. Her website is 30AEATS.com where she writes about the secrets of Gulf Coast food. Look for Crust Artisan Bakery recipes in Benton’s cookbook to be released summer 2015!