the trough

MTCicco PizzaХs interior may be bare, but the restaurantХs 32 varieties of pizza offer plenty of opportunity for baroque sustenance. Add cold beer and a pleasant waitstaff and you have a delightful pizza parlor located in the very heart of Moscow.
Armed with an appetite and some after-work attitude, I set off with some friends for Cicco Pizza. Since the newly opened pizzeria is located near Red Square on the pedestrian Kamergersky Pereulok, dinner was preceded by a nice stroll around the center.

On a Wednesday evening, we didn't have any problem finding a seat. In fact, we had the pick of the house. Despite initial suspicions that Cicco's interior was some sort of an attempt by its designer to devise a high-tech set for a "Happy Days 2000" special (in honor of the American sitcom set in the 1950s), its classy minimalism can't be faulted.

Things started off badly with the staff needing a bit of encouragement to make the five-step journey to actually take our order. But no sooner had I started licking the remnants from the Snickers wrapper in my pocket, than help arrived.

"When in Rome" and all that -- I wasn't about to eat pelmeni in a pizza restaurant -- I threw myself at our waitress Anna's mercy and asked for her recommendation. Due to my temporary hypnotic fascination with our lovely hostess's charms, I wasn't immediately sure what particular variety of pizza I agreed to, but I knew that Anna wouldn't let me down.

Thirst beckoned. Everyone has their own ideas about what's cheap and what's expensive, but 100 rubles for a 0.33-liter Tuborg unfortunately slips Cicco into the strip-club zone of price classifications. In their defense, the beer was cold and was served promptly.

On to the pizzas. Cicco's pies are reasonably priced at between 200 and 300 rubles. We chose four different pizzas -- the seafood pizza, the sausage pizza, the meat pizza and the don't-be-shy-with-the-ingredients pizza -- each of which was delightful.

Fully satisfied with my slices and having exchanged slices with each of my co-diners, I had nothing but praise for the culinary skills of whoever does the pizza flipping at Cicco. From what I saw and experienced, the restaurant offers pretty much every topping you could possibly want -- 32 kinds of pizzas with toppings including olives, peppers, pepperoni, white mushrooms, chicken, salmon and tuna.

Although initially quite free of customers, with time, the venue filled. And with a few more beers and some sneaky smiles from Anna, I began to warm to the atmosphere of Cicco -- fine to take the family, excellent for friends and definitely filed away as an excellent evening starter for any future romantic rendezvous.

5/7 Ulitsa Bolshaya Dmitrovka. Metro Okhotny Ryad. Tel. 229-7361. 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Credit cards: none.