On Monday night we took friends from Toronto to Picco, in the South End.  Have you been?  If you haven't, you should go . . . especially now while the weather is nice . . . 'cause you can eat outside on their front patio and watch the parade of peeps and pooches go by.

Picco emphasizes fresh, seasonal, housemade ingredients.  They make their own soup stocks, sauces, sausage, meatballs, salad dressings, ice cream, and baked desserts on site, and their pizza dough is divine - they use a slow, cold rising and fermentation process to make it, which allows the dough to develop a wonderful structure a very rich, toasty flavor.  I actually think it's the best I've had, anywhere.

"Picco" stands for Pizza & Ice Cream Company, and while there are a few other things on Picco's menu, I'd say those items are the standouts.  Their salads are nice, fresh and simple.  The warm spinach salad with bacon is always a hit, as is the minimalist but satisfying arugula salad with Parmigiano Reggiano, lemon juice and olive oil, which we ordered Monday.

For a starter, we also ordered the Caprese Bruschetta, with local cherry tomatoes in basil oil, tiny slivers of red onion, Lioni fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette.  I'm assuming it was made on Clear Flour Bakery bread, as Picco's sandwiches are all made with Clear Flour loaves and rolls.  The bruschetta was delicious - bread was toasty from the oven, slathered with nice olive oil, topped with the fresh toppings.

We ordered our absolute, to-die-for favorite on the pizza list:  the Alsatian, Picco's pizza-fied version of a tarte flambe.  This creamy, crispy disk of deliciousness is covered in sautéed onions, shallots, garlic, creme fraiche, bacon and Gruyere cheese.  It is rich.  It is luscious.  The saltiness of the bacon offsets all the butteriness of the creme fraiche and Gruyere.  The onions add flavor, but no harsh bite.  I know it's a lot of ingredients, but as our friend raved, "mmm, they all just work so well together."   I'm salivating now, just writing about it.

Ice cream is the star of the dessert menu, and they also have a selection of sorbets. There are various ice-creamy drink desserts, a brownie sundae and so forth, but the dessert I love the most is the warm gingerbread cake.  It's the real deal - made from scratch with real ginger and served with raspberry sauce (which I actually do not like - I get it on the side), whipped cream and a scoop of their fabulous ice cream.

And here's the really interesting and fun thing about Picco - it is a perfect kid-friendly destination (and you will have company even if you're there at 5 p.m. on a Saturday night), but it is also a place you and your adult friends would like to meet, later-night, for some delicious informal food in a fun neighborhood.  How many places can boast that versatility?

Get all the specifics here.

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