513 Tremont Street, Boston, MA (map); 617 927 00666; piccorestaurant.com
Pizza Style: Neo-Neapolitan(ish)
Pizza Oven: Woodstone gas-fired
The Skinny: Bubbly, chewy, tender crust, nice toppings. Decent ice cream.
Price:10-inch Margherita pie, 10.50; 14-inch, $19.00; single toppings, $1.50-3.00/each; Specialty pies, $21.00-$23.00
The crust at Picco (an acronym for Pizza and Ice Cream COmpany) is definitely the star of the show, not surprisingly, given that owner Rick Katz was a pastry chef and baker before he opened this South End stalwart. It’s tender and chewy in equal measure, and about as open and airy as any pizza I’ve had, like ciabatta dough stretched thin. And it’s got the yeasty aroma and signature tang of a dough that has been granted a long and happy life before heading to its fiery end. And they are not afraid—thankfully—to let the pies see a lot of fire in their Woodstone gas-fired oven. The menu specifies that all pies are cooked well-done, and they mean it.
The slightly irregular topography of the pies—thin here, bubbly, blistered, and thick there—suggests they’ve been made from a high hydration dough, one so wet it’s nearly impossible to stretch evenly.
It’s also the source of this crust’s one flaw: an excess of flour coating its exposed surfaces, which, aside from leaving a faint powdery bitterness in the mouth, tends to burn on the underside. Super-wet doughs give beautiful results on the interior crumb, but they are a bear to manipulate without dredging them in flour. I get how this presents something of a Catch–22, but if somehow Picco could dial back on the bench flour, this would be an excellent crust, rather than merely a very good one.
The Margherita pie, made with a smooth tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, and the Neapolitan, which is dotted with crushed tomato pieces and a chiffonade of basil, were both excellent.
I really wanted to like the Eggplant & Homemade Ricotta pie (it’s normally topped with olives as well, but my wife would let them anywhere near our table). The ricotta was creamy and skirting the edge of too salty (in a good way), its unctuousness offset by the capers, sun-dried tomatoes, and red pepper flakes it concealed. The problem was the eggplant: it had a nice creamy texture, but it was marred by an unpleasant sourness that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. (I’d still recommend the pie—just get them to hold the eggplant.)
We couldn’t leave a place known for it’s ice cream as much as its pies without sampling at least a few scoops. (Picco even has an old-fashioned soda fountain that doubles as a bar.) I found the texture to be a bit on the chewy side—I like my ice cream creamy and hard—and the coffee flavor a bit acrid. Still, the vanilla and dark chocolate versions were richly flavored, and, though it’s no Toscanini’s (my neighborhood spot—yes, I’m totally spoiled when it comes to frozen delights), Picco’s ice cream was a welcome end to a meal on a blazing hot July day.
About the author: Andrew Janjigian day-jobs it as an Associate Editor at Cook's Illustrated Magazine. When he's not dismantling recipes for hire, he's likely baking bread or throwing pies into his WFO. He twits regularly as @wordloaf, and blogs much less regularly at blog.dikaryon.org.