Once upon a time, the South End was a hub for starving artists — partly because they were poor, partly because there weren’t any nearby grocery stores or good places to eat. Now, after years of gentrification, the South End has become a stomping ground for both the well-paid and the well-fed. But if you look closely, you still can find a few gems — places fancy enough for the upscale, yet cheap enough for us change rollers.
Picco, an acronym for the Pizza and Ice Cream Company, sits in the ground floor of Atelier, the luxury-condominium building that looms at the corner of Tremont and Berkeley Streets. The inside is warm and welcoming, thanks to the contrasting décor of brown leather banquettes, bright-red chairs, and soft, muted lighting — not to mention the aroma of pizza and calzones roasting in a wood oven.
The menu is made up of six categories — soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, calzones, and desserts — and although the ingredients change almost daily, the formula remains the same: everything’s homemade. Start with a salad, such as the spinach and goat cheese ($5.95), drizzled with a dressing of warm bacon, white beans, and balsamic vinegar. For sandwiches, the Italian cold cut ($6.95) is flawless: a soft baguette piled high with thinly sliced Italian meats and cheeses, topped off with fresh lettuce, marinated olives, and a special tapenade of roasted red peppers and raisins that balances out all that salt with something sweet.
The pizza is of the deliciously crispy kind, but, considering that the margherita ($9.95) is the cheapest of the bunch, a calzone is the better choice for your cash. For $8.95, you get a grease-free calzone practically the size of a football, filled with your choice of cheese (mozzarella, goat, or Gruyère) as well as your choice of two add-ons, such as olives, bacon, eggplant, and anchovies. It also comes with tasty tomato sauce on the side, and you won’t realize the beauty of this option until you try it.
And don’t forget the ice cream. Try a generous scoop ($2.25) of one of Picco’s many original flavors — including cinnamon, almond, and ginger. And for all you anti-risk-takers out there, don’t worry: they have vanilla, too.
Picco, located at 513 Tremont Street, in Boston, is open daily, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call (617) 927-0066.