Picasso's is a restaurant with ups and downs but the ups are food related and the downs aren't enough to chase away customers...yet. Located off of Verona Road on Madison's Westside, Picasso's sits in an unassuming strip mall. The space itself is nice with an open kitchen centered in the room. There are tables on both sides and then a huge covered open-air patio off the dining room. While the center kitchen makes for good eye candy the heat of the giant pizza ovens creates some interesting climate situations. On multiple visits the front door has been propped open to let the heat out. This helps the tables to the left of the room but can leave some of the tables on the right a bit chilly. Also this certainly lets the flies in. The tables are rather barren and don't even include silverware. For the quality of the food you'd expect silverware at the table.
Speaking of the food this is certainly the best part of the place and since it’s a restaurant that's a good thing. The fried portabella mushrooms are a nice starter and certainly tasted fresh. The Creole dipping sauce was a little off though as there was a tanginess that didn't seem to belong. Pizza is a strong suit for Picasso’s when it comes to both traditional pies and more gourmet ones. Their homemade Italian sausage stars on your more normal pies, as does their sauce. The mac and cheese pizza is one of the best I've had although the fettuccine that came on top instead of traditional macaroni was a bit odd. The gorgonzola rib eye pizza was the favorite on our last visit. The thinly sliced meat stood out against the rest of the ingredients but the bite of the cheese was still there too. The same combination is featured in a pasta along with haystack onions and a garlic cream sauce. The steak was again amazing and made me wonder what the kitchen could do with a piece of meat all by itself. Another winning pasta dish was the cannelloni stuffed with the aforementioned sausage. You can choose your sauce and I went with the alfredo, which had outstanding flavor and avoided the pitfall of being too heavy. The fish fry has a lake perch option that always excites me and Picasso's delivers a lightly battered rendition that is very tasty. The coleslaw is solid but the fries are pretty pedestrian. While I have not had it at the restaurant, the stuffed chicken breast is another winner. Picasso’s catered one of the best wedding meals I’ve ever had and served the chicken stuffed with gouda and accompanied by risotto. The two dishes juicy and creamy respectively. The burgers and hot dogs that round out the menu are ok but not in the same league as the entrees and pizzas.
Service is inconsistent at best. On one visit we were forgotten about after our drink order. On another refills of water and silverware delivery needed double mentions. Then again the owner is almost always present and he makes a point to visit each table. This helps the place achieve a neighborhood vibe that almost makes you forget toilets that are often dirty or the odd temperature fluctuations.
Picasso's, 5266 Williamsburg Way, Madison, WI 608-271-8440