A new crush?

Finally getting into Chico’s new hot spot

FULL HOUSE<br>Diners get a seat at Crush 201.

Diners get a seat at Crush 201.

Photo By Brittni Zacher

Crush 201
201 Broadway, Chico
Phone: 342-7000
Hours: Open seven days a week for dinner, starting at 5 p.m.
Reservations for parties of eight or more are accepted Fridays and Saturdays, for two or more the rest of the week.

Crush Italian Cuisine & Lounge

201 Broadway
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 342-7000

Henri was delighted to hear that a new Italian restaurant, Crush 201, had gone into the old bank building at Second and Broadway and that it was creating quite a stir. One drizzly Saturday evening several weeks ago, Colette and I bundled up and headed downtown to give it a try.

As we walked up the stairs to the second-floor restaurant, we could hear the sounds of loud laughter and clinking glasses—a lot of people seemed to be having a very good time. Indeed, the rowdy bar was packed three deep, and there would be a two-hour wait for dinner.

Crushed and back down on the cold sidewalk, we contemplated our options. Not for long, though: Monk’s Wine Lounge & Bistro beckoned from across the street. Ten minutes later we were seated at one of the restaurant’s four or five little tables quietly enjoying a lovely pinot noir and a delicious vegetarian soup. While the entire dinner was one of the best we’ve had in Chico, a highlight was our post-prandial coffee, delivered piping hot from the Naked Lounge—our waiter had strolled down the block to pick it up. “Definitely five forks,” Colette said.

We tried Crush 201 again a week later. Same thing. Large parties, laughter, a packed bar. Another two-hour wait for dinner. This time we headed up to House of Bamboo, which was virtually empty, and had an absolutely divine dinner: bamboo chicken, yellow curry, pad Thai noodles. Four chopsticks, easy.

Third time’s a charm, and on a Tuesday night we were seated right away—only about half the tables were occupied.

Crush 201 has a decidedly urban feel, with low light, ceilings open to richly painted beams and ductwork, and large chairs and couches and small tables in the bar area. Two dining rooms—one of which looks down on Broadway—are divided in part by a ceiling-high waterfall sheeting down a wall of glass.

Even the menu—oversized and unadorned—feels urban. Appetizers include a fritto mezzo, with calamari, zucchini, onions, olives and basil aioli ($11); crab cakes ($15); and Kobe beef sliders, with cheese, caramelized onions and bacon ($15). Salads range from the mixed-green house ($5) to a Gorgonzola, with bacon, avocado, cucumber, radishes, tomatoes and blue cheese ($9).

Crush 201 also features brick-oven pizzas (the owner of local favorite Celestino’s Live From New York Pizzaria is a Crush 201 partner): pepperoni; clams, bacon and basil; grilled chicken with pesto and artichokes ($8-$11). Entrées ($16-$28) include a range of pastas, salmon crusted with sun-dried tomatoes, cioppino, steak, eggplant parmigiana and veal piccata.

There’s also an extensive wine list. Glasses ($7-$10) include Mer Soleil and J. Lohr, and bottles range from Bertagna Barbera ($35) and Frank Valley Chardonnay ($47) to a Silver Oak Cabernet ($110). Plus: grappa and port by the glass.

Colette suggested sharing a plate of brick-oven meatballs ($9) and a butter-lettuce salad ($9), with apples, endive slices, candied pecans and a creamy, sweet Gorgonzola dressing. The meatballs (three) came out fairly quickly and were good, covered in a thick red sauce, but we were surprised how long the salad took—especially considering the place was half empty. My slow-roasted pork also took a very long time to come out—Henri was beginning to get slow-roasted himself. It was tender and served with a moist sauce—OK, but not particularly flavorful. The best part was its bed of creamy polenta. Colette’s chicken picatta came with capers, tomatoes, green beans and potatoes au gratin. she said it was fine and gave it a B-.

As we left, we took one last look around the bar and dining rooms. People were having a great time, and we could see why the place had generated such a buzz—definitely the kind of place to come with a group or to celebrate a birthday. We’ll definitely be back, perhaps this spring, when the kitchen’s had a chance to work out the bugs and fresh, local ingredients will be more readily available.