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Restaurant Details

Cicero's reopens to acclaim

Sheila Himmel
Mercury News
Published: Friday, August 16, 2002

``Pushpa, your pizza's ready!''

Cicero's Pizza workers sing out the welcome news in their spacious new store. Pushpa smiles as she fetches the pizza for her table.

Much of Cupertino and West San Jose is smiling since Cicero's reopened in June. Among the testimonials recorded in the register-side guest book:

``Do not ever, I mean ever close again. We will hunt you down and drag you back to cook.''

``I've lost 35 pounds since you closed, but I'm glad you're back.''

``You guys make the best pizza. Even though I'm lactose-intolerant I still can't resist your pizza.''

Upstate New York-style Cicero's pies are thin and foldable. The original crust, which comes from Niagara Falls, N.Y., is spotted golden brown on the underside, from baking on a film of canola oil in a metal pan. It lacks the carbon-burned forcefulness of many East Coast pizzas. But it's tasty enough, just the same.

Whole-milk mozzarella melts into a sparingly applied, sweet-tart tomato sauce that stretches all the way to the edges. You don't see a graveyard of crusts when you leave Cicero's.

The plain cheese runs $6.25 for an eight-inch pie, $9.25 for a 12-inch, $12 for a 16-inch.

Though now technically in San Jose, Cicero's displays photos of old Cupertino, where Nunzio Cicero opened his first store in 1961. Why, there are flats of apricots drying in the sun, apricot orchard workers in vests and ties, and apricot blossoms.

Parents will be glad that video games are closeted in a glassed-in room.

Nunzio Cicero started at Stevens Creek and Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road, as Pee-Wee's Pizza. The name changed to Coppola's, then to Cicero's, and in 1988 the store moved down a couple blocks to Blaney Avenue. A month after closing Cicero's Pizza last summer, the founder died at 87. The new Cicero's is run by Nunzio Cicero's son-in-law, Bob LaVerdi, and grandson Rik Jones.

Cicero's Special ($8.25, $12.75 and $15.50) has chopped black olives, mushrooms and melted mozzarella mingling with slips of spicy pepperoni and salami.

Other combos include the No Meat Treat (cheese, mushrooms, sausage, onions, bell peppers) and the Vegetarian (cheese, jalapeņos, onions, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers) and the Belly Buster, which adds sausage and bell peppers to Cicero's Special.

Or, design your own. It just won't be a designer pizza. Cicero's fanciest add-ons are Canadian bacon and linguica. You want bacon bits, no problem.

But if you want lasagna, spaghetti or dessert, big problem. Cicero's Pizza is the name of a focused enterprise. Eat in or take out, no delivery. The two non-pizza items are a house salad ($2) and a Caesar salad ($3.25). The latter has crisp iceberg and Romaine lettuces, with bready croutons and dry toothpicks of Mozzarella. You may need to reach for the sprinkles of mozzarella and red-pepper flakes in baby-food jars with holes poked in the lids, the way children keep captured bugs.

Cicero's has a few beers on tap, sufficient imports and domestics in bottles, and Franzia Vintner Select Merlot ($2 a glass) in the wine department. Diners get a 5 percent discount on bottles at the Wine Rack, next door, but if there's a sign announcing this arrangement, I missed it.

If they know you at Cicero's, they'll call you by name. If not, it's like passing through a small town. The counter staff and the customer chat, and then:

``All right, Alice. G'bye!''

Cicero's Pizza
6138 Bollinger Road
San Jose, CA 95129
(408) 777-0690



25 stars

Cuisine type
Pizza, Pizza

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 3-8 p.m. Sunday.


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