Cozy Pies in North Country
320 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur
Open daily for dinner, weekends for lunch and dinner
No reservations, major credit cards accepted
Pizzeria Picco’s name is often thrown in when people talk about the best pizza in the Bay Area. But I always could never make the comparison myself because I don’t have a car. So my gauge for the best pizza is limited to San Francisco and the East Bay.
But when my friend David was out of town and left me his car to use, I drove up on a Saturday night to test out Pizzeria Picco’s Italian pies. For company, I brought along my friend Ken, the seafood-dairy eating vegetarian.
We arrived on a blustery evening, so I wasn’t in the mood to sit outside on the patio that faces the street. So we waited for a counter seat in the tiny pizzeria.
Pizzeria Picco is next to the larger Picco restaurant next door. When owner Bruce Hill had the chance to expand to the space next to his restaurant, he decided to make it a pizzeria serving up Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza way before the Neapolitan craze took a grappling hold on the Bay Area.
The tiny space definitely has the feel of a neighborhood joint and not a stylized pizzeria. The coziness is accentuated by the wood-fire oven churning out pizzas every few minutes, the pizzaiolo slapping the finished pie loudly on the plate like the announcement of a new birth comes with the slap on the behind.
Each of the pizzas are supposedly named after bicycle brands because this is Marin where bike riders roam the Marin headlands and beyond. Since I don’t ride bikes, I can’t verify that all the names of the pizzas are bike names. Although I’m pretty sure the Margherita is the traditional Margherita pizza of tomato sauce and basil.
After studying the pizza options, many made primarily of vegetables, I settled for the Ibis ($14.95) and Ken went with the Della Santa ($12.50). But to start, I felt like something cool as we sat close to the wood-fire oven, so I ordered a cup of the tomato and melon gazpacho ($4).
The gazpacho came not in a cup but more like a Chinese tea cup. They didn’t serve it with a spoon, so I had to drink it like a shot. The taste was amazing, with an interesting tartness that cuts into the tomato and melon flavors. It was quite complex, especially with the slight drizzling of Davero extra virgin olive oil (that’s the same oil used in their famous dessert of soft-serve ice cream with oil).
My pizza came out first, and it was beautifully designed with the green swirl of rapini pesto on the canvas of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. The toppings for the Ibis included bay shrimp, Picco pancetta and roasted peppers.
Ken’s Della Santa pizza came a few minutes later, looking actually very similar as a white pizza but played off more by the broccoli di ciccio. It was also topped with roasted peppers, spring onion and roasted garlic. Ken reported that it was a good pizza and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
As for me, I loved the flavor combinations of all the ingredients on my pizza. The slight sweetness of the bay shrimp offset the oil of the smoky pancetta, with everything wrapped by the cheese and bright rapini pesto. But in terms of pizza crust, there was a lot to be desired. The heavy layer of cheese made the pizza crust soggy, and almost bread-like despite being a thin crust. I had a hard time picking up the slices with all that droop factor.
And the flavor of the crust was just OK. It didn’t inspire me to eat the crust, which I sometimes do when I’m enamored by the dough itself. So while I ate the whole pizza, there were bits of crust edges left on my plate.
Because I had the gazpacho to start (and a cupcake prior to dinner), I passed on dessert. I know, I’m not supposed to leave without trying the Strauss Dairy soft-serve ice cream with extra virgin olive oil. Hey, I can just get a soft serve closer to home and drizzle olive oil on myself, thank you very much.
Pizzeria Picco definitely is the spot for pizza in Larkspur. Even though the wait wasn’t that long for us to get a pair of seats at the tiny counter, there was a constant parade of people coming in to pick up take out orders. While the service was efficient, it wasn’t super neighborly to make me want to stay longer. And since the pizza crust wasn’t crispy, I’m not sure if it’s worth the trek from Oakland for their pies. Great combination of ingredients and flavors, but the crust is a bit lacking.
Single guy rating: 3.25 stars (Tasty but Limp)
Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner
More Pizza Posts:
Gialina Pizzeria: “The Best Pizza … At Least in Glen Park”
Flour + Water: “The Personal Touch to Your Pasta”
Pizzeria Delfina: “Showcase for Pizza and More”
Friday, October 16, 2009
Cozy Pies in North Country