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After pizza, ice cream. Any questions?

Email|Print| Text size + By Sheryl Julian
September 30, 2004

At Rick Katz's month-old Picco, on the ground floor of the South End building that houses the multimillion-dollar condos of Atelier 505, pizza and ice cream rule the menu -- Picco stands for Pizza and Ice Cream Company, after all. And when you get right down to it, is there any better combination of foods?

Katz, the former executive pastry chef of Legal Sea Foods, has spent 20 years working alongside a lot of well-known chefs in Boston and beyond. Locally, he's worked with Lydia Shire and Jimmy Burke. Farther afield, he's worked with California celeb-chef Wolfgang Puck. He once owned Bentonwood Bakery in Newton. With those credentials, imagine what Katz can do with a little flour and yeast. Add a $30,000 oven that stays blazing hot all night and some carefully conceived toppings, and you have the most remarkable pizza being made in Boston.

But then, everything at Picco is first-class, from the charming wine list put together by Il Capriccio's co-owner and sommelier, Jeannie Rogers, to the beautifully seasoned food, and, of course, that awesome ice cream. You may never want to go anywhere else.

All that, and a cool room to boot: a retro-inspired soda fountain on one side, where you can eat ice cream or drink wine, and a 49-seat dining room on the other. Designer Peter Niemitz did the room, which includes faux linen walls, brown Formica tables with leatherette banquettes, and fire-engine-red chairs.

What distinguishes Katz's pizzas is not just best-quality toppings -- like margherita ($9), the classic tomato-and-basil round made here with mozzarella, provolone, and romano cheeses -- but the crust. The dough is thin on the bottom, a little puffy and blistered at the edges, and perfectly cooked. I ask Katz why pizza is so rarely cooked properly, and he explains most ovens can't get hot enough, or with enough uniformity. That's why he spent a fortune on his.

As it happens, his Alsatian pizza ($11), a riff on the famous bacon and onion flammkuchen made all over Alsace, is better here than it was anywhere I had it in its native land. The onions are golden brown and spread in a very thin layer, with sour cream and Gruyre cheese, the mixture studded with bits of good bacon. Roasted vegetable pizza ($11) is stunning, with its strips of eggplant and red pepper, but the special chanterelle pie one night ($15), with slices of mushroom and fontina cheese, knocked us out.

Picco salad ($4.50) is a mixture of red leaf lettuce with roasted pepper and olives. The beautifully seasoned vinaigrette just coats the leaves. A fresh-tasting corn chowder ($3.25 and $4.75) is laced with fresh herbs.

Four sandwiches ($7) are offered on sourdough. B&T, LLC comes with thick strips of bacon and slices of tomato with avocado, slaw, and a chipotle mayonnaise.

You can't leave without dessert, which arrives in tall, footed glasses and comes with a long ice-cream-soda spoon. The brownie sundae ($4.25) includes a moist chunk of bittersweet brownie, a dreamy hot fudge sauce made with Scharffen Berger chocolate, divine vanilla ice cream, and real whipped cream -- the perfect post-pizza confection.

PICCO

Cuisine: Italian/Pizza

Address: 513 Tremont Street, Boston (South End)

Phone: 617-617-0066

Hours: Daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Prices: Pizzas ($9 to $15)

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