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On a beautiful spring weekend that coincided with graduation ceremonies at Tufts in Somerville, we met up with friends for Pizza at the fourth and final place on the list - Picco.
Regina and Santarpio's are the classic old-style eateries crafting old-style classic pizzas, and doing so beautifully. Picco, by its modern exterior look, seemed to have more in common with Cambridge 1, a newer venue for modern fare and hip diners.
We arrived around 5:30 on a Saturday, and had to wait (at a comfortable and friendly bar area) for about 45 minutes in order to secure a table for our large group of eight. We ordered a few drinks (some great craft beers on tap) and two salads for the table. Both starters were excellent, but the salad of arugula garnished simply with olive oil and aged shaved cheese was memorable.
We ordered four pizzas: a plain margherita with fresh mozzarella; another margherita-type pie topped with pepperoni; a pizza featuring mushrooms, sausage, and smoked mozzarella; and a pie sporting a mix of vegetable toppings including banana peppers and sauteed greens.
Picco warns you that "our pizzas are cooked well done." In other words, the charred spots are a small price to pay for getting the rest of the pie perfect. We've seen similar warnings to novice pizza eaters at Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza and Philly's Zavino. For me? Of course - I'll take a charred edge every time over a pale and floppy undercooked pie.
The pies came out in swift succession from the open oven. Each had its own visual appeal, but the plain margherita and the pepperoni held the most beauty with the contrast of the milky white mozzarella, the deep red sauce, and the leopard spotted crust.
|Mushrooms, sausage, smoked mozzarella|
Let's begin with the crust. While the first impression might have been "Neapolitan," this crust was much firmer and sturdier than a Neapolitan, even as it shared the thick, tender, air-filled puffy cornicione. It was one of those wonderful pies that sits somewhere between a Neapolitan and the thin, crisp style of old-school pies like Regina, Totonno's, or Lombardi's.
|The veggie pie|
In a word, even with some serious spots of char, the crust was about perfect.
|Even the burnt edges tasted wonderful|
Happily, the excellence did not end there. The red sauce was a standout - rich, dark, with an intense tomato flavor. I often prefer standard dry mozzarella, but this fresh mozz was not overly wet and it was baked to a wonderful texture.
|Waiting for our pizza|
That was the margherita: a perfect crust that could stand alone with the best of breads, topped with impeccable sauce and fresh mozzarella.
That was kicked up yet another level on the pepperoni version. Full thick circles of dense, small-diameter pepperoni dotted the pie, and curled up into delightfully crisp and chewy cups. The oil yielded by the pepperoni added to the flavor. The margherita was an A+ pizza; the pepperoni gets A++.
|Open flame coming from one side of the oven|
I was a bit leery about the smoked mozz on the mushroom pie, but the smoke flavor was properly subtle. This was an excellent pizza in every way, and so was the mixed veggie pie. Like the first two pizzas, they sported a perfect crust and showed off the skill of the pizzaiolo. No complaints about either, but the simpler pies were the star of the day.
Astonishingly good stuff. Nice ambiance and service, too. As always, great pizza begins with the crust, and this base was superb. Everything worked on these pies - flavors, textures, balance, and combination of sauce, cheese, and toppings. Picco is destination pie for any discriminating pizza eater.
After four years of traveling to Boston, Picco is the clear winner of the pizzas that I was able to sample. In fact, I cannot find a flaw in this pie. It is, simply, one of the best pizzas I have had anywhere. I can rank it within the same league as Frank Pepe, DeLorenzo's, and DiFara.