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In Park Slope, where pizza parlors are as common as corner bars once were, why is it so difficult to find a decent pie?

I don’t know either.

But now there’s Peperoncino, a Neapolitan restaurant on Fifth Avenue, and chef-owner Nino Gagliardi’s pies put an end to the search.

Since Peperoncino (named for a hot red chile pepper) opened in December, diners can be seen devouring earthy, thin-crusted pies (no slices here) lightly topped with a simple tomato sauce. Pull up a chair in the rustic dining room, and you’ll find that the wood-burning oven turns out pizzas that taste even better than they look.

Of course the fire works its magic, burning smoky blisters on the pie’s bottom, but the cheese is special too. Instead of the usual buffalo mozzarella, cow’s-milk mozzarella called "fiore di latte (top of the milk)" adds a clean, fresh taste.

And, it’s not just pizza they do well.

Begin your meal with a terrific appetizer of tender white beans, chunks of rare smoked salmon and thin slivers of red onion tossed in a tart lemon dressing that marries the ingredients beautifully. Pastas like white onion and beef ragout and earthy entrees of Cornish game hens with sea salt and rosemary make Peperoncino the best new kid on the block.

Peperoncino (72 Fifth Ave. at St. Mark’s Place) accepts American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $9-$20. The restaurant serves dinner daily and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3 pm. For more information, call (718) 638-4760.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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