I had often spoken fondly about the range of dishes that were available at Crust restaurant when it was open. The pizzas and dough balls were usually the main attraction, but some understated starters could steal the show. Here are our favorite starter recipes, recreated as best as we could.

There were days when a simple dip and bread were all we needed before a large entree. Crust hit the spot with two awesome Italian recipes – the Giardiniera spread and the Baked Artichoke Asiago Cheese Dip. Crust’s closure means that I am now left to recreate a version of both in my own kitchen. This is how I managed to recreate the starter recipe and I hope you love them too!

How I Made My Own Giardiniera Spread At Home

Crust’s spicy Giardiniera dip was a favorite with our family for many reasons. My wife and I always loved the taste and believed it was a great healthy treat to counterbalance the wine and pizza. The kids utilized their nose up at the smell (either due to the pickled elements or the olives) but had fun with the pronunciation. It seemed like such a simple, versatile dip that I decided to try and recreate it at home. The problem is that the vague description on the menu didn’t offer many clues.

Crust restaurant described the dip as a “traditional spicy olive salad” with Italian cheese that was served cold. The serving suggestion was easy enough. I knew I simply had to blend the ingredients together to get a nice paste and put it on some toast. The rest of it was a little vague. I later found this recipe on Giardiniera spread that gave me a starting point.

  • 1 cup of mixed giardiniera, you can find jars in grocery stores.
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar

Ciabatta bread for toasting.

This all sounded easy enough, and I was able to adapt the starter recipe to make my version of the Crust classic. Naturally, I added some more olives and cheese to try and make it more like the dip that I remembered. The Giardiniera turned out to be a mixture of pickled carrots, celery, cauliflower, red pepper, and pepperoncini.  If you do not want to buy a jar there are recipes online to make this from scratch but it will take more time.

Remove any stems and blend this mixture in a food processor with the other ingredients of your choice. Continue until you get to the right consistency, season and spread it on your toasted Ciabatta.

The end product resulted in the same upturned nose from my kids, so I must be getting close.

Recreating The Baked Artichoke Asiago Cheese Dip

The other starter recipes is for their hot dip that Crust Restaurant had that we wanted to try and bring back their Baked Artichoke Asiago Cheese Dip. The flavors and texture in this dip always came as a surprise, even though we had eaten it many times before.

This time, the old Crust menu was less than helpful in providing a starting point. We knew we needed Artichoke and Asiago cheese, but that was it. A quick online search leads us to many recipes.

It seems that Crust was not kidding when they said that they followed authentic Italian recipes. You can choose the option you think sounds the tastiest, or easiest. I went for the following.

  • One package of fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/2 a cup of fat-free sour cream
  • 2 of tablespoons of fat-free half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup of shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts
  • Four medium green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

You will note that I have chosen fat-free options here, but reduced-fat cream cheese will work. You can go for a less healthy option and may even find that it tastes better. There are a lot of elements here, but the method is pretty simple if you follow it carefully.

  • Start by warming the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Smooth the cream cheese with an electric mixer before adding the sour cream, half-and-half, and salt.
  • Once blended, add the grated cheese, chopped artichoke hearts, and onions.
  • Spoon the batter into an ovenproof dish and bake uncovered.
  • The recipe says to wait between 10 and 15 minutes before serving, or you may burn your mouth.

I find the best indicator is when the cheese is melted. To serve, simply take it out, place the hot bowl on a heat resistant surface, and sprinkle with that chopped parsley.

These Italian recipes are an attempt to recreate the magic of a starter course at Crust restaurant. I may not have completely revived the dishes, but I have come close enough for now.