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A Dreamy Meal of Pizza and Soft-Serve

We came for the pizza. We stayed for the soft-serve.

After all, when no less an authority on Italian cuisine than Mario Batali declares in a national food magazine that the Margherita pie at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur is the best in the country, well, one must high-tail it over there to try it pronto.

My hubby and I finally did (hey, it is a hike from the South Bay).

A cyclist, my hubby got a kick out of how so many of the pies are named after bikes, including the “Specialized” (Hobbs’ pepperoni, house-made sausage, tomato, mozzerella, and basil), and the “Seven” (oyster mushrooms, mozzarella, parmesan, pecorino, and oregano). Since his nickname is Meat Boy, he opted for the “Cannondale” (house-made sausage, roasted peppers, spring onion, mozzarella, and basil; $13.50). I, of course, went for the Margherita (tomato, basil, house-made mozzarella, parmesan, and De Padova extra virgin olive oil; $10.95).

Since the pizzeria itself is teeny-tiny and it was a beautiful, warm evening in Marin County, we sat outside at a wrought-iron table. The Pizzeria is adjacent to the larger Picco Restaurant, which has a more expansive menu. Both were started by long-time Bay Area Chef Bruce Hill.

The pizzas arrived and we dug in. Bits of nicely seasoned sausage really gave a lift to the Cannondale pie. The crust was thin, and quite charred, even blackened in some spots. It was good chewing.

The Margherita suffered just a bit from a less-than-crisp center. The mozzarella had melted completely into the sweet tomato sauce, so that the flavor of the toppings was almost reminiscent of a lovely creamy tomato bisque. It was tasty, indeed. But was it the best Margherita I’ve ever had? I’m not sure since I don’t always order Margheritas. It was definitely a nicely executed pizza. But I think I would still give the edge in the pizza wars to Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, especially for its squash blossom-tomato-burrata pizza, which is the stuff carbo-loading dreams are made of.

Lastly, the hubster and I shared a cup of Straus Dairy vanilla soft-serve drizzled with Da Vero extra virgin olive oil and sea salt ($5.95). That might sound like an odd combination, but Pizzeria Picco has become famous for this ice cream concoction. And justly so. The soft-serve is cold, creamy, and just a bit sweet. The buttery olive oil gives it all a more unctuous quality, upping the richness factor of the ice cream, and creating a more complex flavor. The sea salt is the added little touch that amplifies the sweet-savory playfulness.

Note to Chef Howard Bulka, who plans to serve Straus soft-serve in his new Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria to open in Palo Alto this summer: Please, oh, please, can you do the olive oil-thang, too?