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Top This: Potato and Roasted-Garlic Pizza (à la Pizzeria Picco)

Above are bonus shots from the session that show Pizzeria Picco executive chef Bruce Hill making the pizza in question. Below are the ingredients and guidelines you'll need to make this pie. [Photographs: Stephanie Im]

I wanted to get some regional variety into the Top This series, so I roped Stephanie Im of Lick My Spoon into the madness here. Stephanie visited Bruce Hill at Pizzeria Picco to bring us all topping inspiration. The Mgmt.

What would you get if you took all the things you loved about a great french fry and put it on a pizza?

Pizzeria Picco's "Marin," a white pizza topped with young potato, roasted garlic, mozzarella, and grated Grana Padano.

It's as if Pizzeria Picco executive chef Bruce Hill was at the ballpark one day with a plate of garlic fries, tripped and fell, with the fortuitous landing spot being a slice of pizza. (True story? Not so much. But nonetheless, the concept is genius.)

The potatoes are sliced paper thin and tossed in a fragrant rosemary olive oil. The secret here is leaving the potatoes raw. When the pie gets fired in the oven (about 3 minutes at 900°F), the almost-transparent potato slices cook up just the right amount, retaining a pleasant vegetal bite to them.

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The day I watched Hill make this pie, he used banana fingerling potatoes, but the variety of potato he uses changes based on what's available at the market. In classic Bay Area form, Hill and his chefs go to three to four local farmers' markets a week to source their fresh ingredients. They've even started coining the term "Cali-politan" to describe their style of pizza. The technique is all Neapolitan, from the Tipo "00" flour used in the dough, to the blistered crust and floppy center. The attention to ingredients, though, and the simplicity of letting them speak for themselves, is pure Californian.

As it happens, San Franciscans are now able to get their Cali-politan fix without going all the way up to Larkspur. Picco's sister pizzeria, Zero Zero, (located in the city's SoMa district between Lulu and Oola) just opened yesterday. In fact, while we were shooting photos and stuffing our faces working, chef Chris Whaley was firing up the new pizza oven for the first time. With tried and true favorites like the pizzas and Straus Creamery soft serve on the menu, it looks like Zero Zero will be starting out on solid footing.

What You'll Need (for 1 small pizza)

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A few tips:

1. Try not to touch the edge of the dough when you're stretching and pressing it out. You'll be rewarded with a nicely rounded, raised crust.

2. When you place the roasted garlic on the pie, smash it down a bit so that it lays flat.

3. Be sure to dry the fresh mozzarella pieces in paper towels. Fresh mozzarella has a high level of moisture, so if you don't get rid of some of it, you risk a soggy pizza.

4. It is important for the potatoes to be sliced as thin as possible since they are placed on the pizza raw. If you have a mandolin, this is the time to break it out.

5. Toss the potato slices in a few tablespoons of rosemary olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. (Note: to make your own rosemary olive oil, pulse together some fresh rosemary and high-quality, extra virgin olive oil in a food processor or blender. Rosemary is strong so a little goes a long way. Start with 1 sprig to a cup of oil and add more if need be.)

6. Sprinkle the grated Grana Padano last.

7. Check for any "dead spots," a.k.a. any bare spots that have no toppings. Also check to see that the toppings go right to the edge of the crust. Hill calls this "edge discipline."

Peep the gallery above to see step-by-step shots of this pizza being made, easy as pie.

Other Ways to Top Your Pizza

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Outro: 'Top That!'

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