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Pizza, Limoncello and Double Dating at Piola

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Shame on me for forgetting about Piola. It had been too long, so I recently reacquainted myself with the Italian chain on a double date with friends. Luckily, the flame is still burning (with the restaurant, not the other couple, creeps). You could say I'm hot for pizza.

Piola gets right what a lot of other places get wrong. Their pies are a paradox of themselves. Crisp but soft and chewy; the dough slight enough to be thin-crust, but thick enough to hold the toppings, which, by the way, aren't piled on too high but still feel plentiful.

Take the ricotta, for example. Since I dined with three others that night, we each picked a pie and switched slices to make one mega-pie for each of us (trust me, this is the way to go). My one friend chose the Tours ($14) -- a spinach, mushroom and bacon pizza -- and added ricotta cheese. This is perhaps the only good thing he's ever done in his life. Just kidding. He also started our Fantasy Football League. That's it, though.

The ricotta on my Tours slice was perfection. Mounds of creamy, silky cheese that practically melt in your mouth are dolloped along the pie. I liked the cheese so much, in fact, that I used the mounds as a dunking ground for some of my other slices -- the Brooklyn ($14), with shredded chicken, roasted broccoli and stinky (in a good way) gorgonzola cheese; the Prato ($15.50), with briny shiitake mushrooms, a bitter bite of arugula and wisps of grainy Grana Padano cheese (think Parmigiano Reggiano's younger, milder brother); and the Pompei ($14), a slightly thick-crust pie with spicy salami, sweet tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.

Each slice was delicious on its own, for sure. But the whole experience was made better by moving between flavors. That and the two bottles of the Cab Franc blend ($33) we took down. Oh, and the sgroppino al limone digestif ($7) that we had for dessert. If you take away anything from my ramblings, make it this drink -- a lemon gelato and vodka concoction that will take you to your happy place. The sorbet is the creamiest, most delicious take on limoncello I've had to date.

After the date, I knew one thing for certain -- this time, I won't wait so long to go back.

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