When people talk about the best pizza in and around Boston, two names that typically seem to come up are Pizzeria Regina in the North End of Boston and Santarpio's in East Boston, along with others such as Emma's in the Kendall Square section of Cambridge and Ernesto's and Galleria Umberto's in the North End. There certainly are others worthy of discussion, though, including a funky place in the South End of the city that received much fanfare when it first opened up, but now seems to be flying under the radar a bit. Indeed, based on discussions with pizza lovers both online and in person, any mention of Picco Restaurant quite often seems to be met with the response "What's Picco?" or "Where is that?" (especially when talking to those who live in the suburbs of Boston). But Picco is a dining spot that serves such exceptional pizza that it would not be a stretch to say that this may be the best pie in the entire Boston area.
Located on the ground floor of a luxury residential building near where Tremont Street meets Berkeley Street, Picco is a fairly small dining spot that has a kind of quirky, offbeat charm to it. A bar and soda fountain that sit to the right give Picco a slightly retro feel, while the rest of the room is filled with tables and brightly-colored chairs. During the warmer months, the capacity of the restaurant is increased quite a bit with its outdoor patio that abuts the sidewalk. Jazz music is often piped into the dining room, adding to the almost Bohemian vibe of the place.
Picco features pizza that would certainly not be out of place in the Bronx or Brooklyn, as it is cooked in a fiery hot brick oven (giving the crust a nice char) and served on top of metal cans. The pizza crust's hearty flavor comes in part from the scratch-made dough being fermented over a two-day period, while the rich and chunky sauce and fresh slices of imported cheese combine with the crust to make a pie that has an amazing array of flavors. Toppings include pork sausage, arugula, shiitake mushrooms, pepperoni pizza, and bacon, with some interesting combinations offered (such as a goat cheese and vegetable pizza mixed with balsamic vinaigrette). For those not in the mood for pizza, Picco also has soups, salads (including a Caesar salad with slivers of sharp-tasting parmigiano-reggiano cheese and a warm spinach salad with soft goat cheese), sandwiches, calzones, and pasta dishes. And folks with a sweet tooth certainly have reason to come to Picco, as the restaurant is also known for its outstanding homemade ice cream (the name "Picco" actually stands for "Pizza and Ice Cream Company").
When we first tried Picco, we were almost shocked at the quality of the pizza, but were not really sure whether it was a true "hidden gem," as food critics, locals, and diners familiar with the Boston restaurant scene all seemed to know about this place. But many more do not seem to know about Picco, frequenting Regina's, Santarpio's, and other more well-known places instead. Depending on who you talk to, however, this unusual little dining spot may have them all beat, so if you love pizza and have never heard of Picco, consider a drive or a subway ride over to the South End to see just how good this place is.
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