PICASSO’S: IT’S ABOUT THE FOOD, NOT THE PAINTER Publication: Fitchburg Star Writer: Kurt Gutknecht

It’s all about the food. Picasso’s doesn’t occupy the glitziest quarters in town-Verona Rd. is jus a stone’s throw away-but that doesn’t bother owner Chadwick Leppien.

Four years after he took over the restaurant at 5266 Williamsburg Way (he kept the name, which has only a peripheral relationship with the artist), he has renovated most of it, paid off the mortgage and revitalized the menu-and provided “creative cooking” at a price that’s accessible to families.

Picasso’s has apparently found is niche in a city that now offers abundant choices.

“We want people to try something new,” Leppien said. The restaurant still offers familiar fare such as home-made pizza and lasagna, but regularly includes more adventuresome offerings such as pumpkin curry soup and shrimp and artichoke risotto stuffed pepper. The restaurant will unveil a new menu in a few weeks.

The restaurant’s unostentatious surroundings are family-friendly. It offers a rare combination-fine food at the “mid-level price point,” said Leppien.

Recently joining Picasso are chefs David Heide, formerly with Condon Bleu in Minneapolis, and Brian Moser, who has worked at the Sheraton and Quivey’s Grove. Jason Baker has also singed on as general manager.

The restaurant has garnered several accolades recently, including an award for Best Appetizer-escargot with new potatoes-at this year’s Big Eat. Diners can now choose from about 50 new beers and there’s been a “substantial increase” in the wine list.

Other changes are on tap, including relocation of the kitchen, which now dominates the center of the room. The restaurant has also applied for a liquor license and will construct a privacy fence around the patio. “We’re getting there,” Leppien said.

Chef Heide, a native of Madison, said he joined Picasso’s because it offered a unique opportunity to influence the menu as well as interact with customers “up front.”

“This restaurant provides something new without breaking the wallet. Otherwise it’s difficult for a family to afford this type of food,” Heide said.

Leppien isn’t bothered that several employees see Picasso’s as a “stepping stone”-they want to acquire experience so that they can eventually open their own restaurants.

Twenty-three people attended the restaurant’s five-course wine-tasting, which also featured an appetizer and dessert. More than 60 people have signed up for the repeat event, Leppien said.

The restaurant also offers catering. One client hired Picasso’s for its events in Rockford, Janesville and Beloit, and is sending…



PICASSOS: HITS ONE OUT OF THE PARK Publication: Writer: Mitch Kite

If you lived in Madison in the ’90s, you probably remember a great hot dog joint named “Presto’s”. At the time, Presto’s was one of a few places serving Chicago Style Hot Dogs in Madison. Presto’s was locally owned, well known for their incredible jumbo char dog and had the ambiance of our favorite hot dog places…kind of a dive, but with a welcoming atmosphere. Unfortunately, Presto’s closed their doors in 1999 (and not due to lack of business). The only reminder of Presto’s was an extremely faded sign that remained for many years. The Presto’s sign was finally removed in early 2006.

Not long after Presto’s closed, “Picasso’s Pizza” opened up in the remodeled and expanded space once occupied by Presto’s. Even though Picasso’s specializes in Italian cuisine, they kept the jumbo Chicago Style char dog on the menu due to demand. About a year after opening, Picasso’s was sold to a Chicago native. We recently chatted with the owner and he told us that their char dog still has a cult following.

As we pulled into the parking lot, we reminisced about the Presto’s char dog. Once inside we were greeted by the owner and quickly seated at our table. We cracked open the menu and quickly ordered the 1/4 pound “Chicago Style Vienna Beef Hot Dog”. The dog is available either char-grilled or steamed. Each of us ordered the char dog and a soft drink. We also split an order of fries.

When we saw our Chicago Dogs, we knew that they would not let us down. We took our first bite and both agreed that they “hit one out of the park”. The dogs were incredible! Without even running the DOGS numbers, we knew we had found the best dog in Madison. In the end, the numbers confirmed what we already knew.

The quarter pound Vienna char dog was fantastic, grilled to perfection and served on a steamed poppy seed bun. The mustard was placed on the dog in a zig-zag pattern. The neon green relish tasted great and the quantity was just right. The wedge-like tomatoes were crisp and the onions were sliced/chopped. The two sport peppers were the right size, had good heat and were nice and juicy. The large thick crunchy pickle was outstanding! Celery salt rounded out the dog. All the toppings are generous and compliment each other perfectly.

In our opinion, this is the best Chicago Style Hot Dog in the Madison area and certainly one of the highest rated dogs thus far. We enjoyed our dogs so much, we could have easily had another. A complete lunch (dog, drink, fries) is a little pricey. Picasso’s Chicago Dog costs $3.50 and an order of fries is $1.50. Picasso’s has an extensive menu including pizza, pasta dishes and a variety of sandwiches.