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Restaurant Review: Dessert, Dessert, Dessert

By Kate Samranvedhya
Staff Reporter

Ever wonder where to get good dessert? Now you'll know. This week's review takes you to some of the best dessert places around Boston. Almost all the places reviewed here are pastry shops, so the ranking of best desserts does not include desserts in restaurants.

Best pastry (small tartlets, tarts, and pies & lemon meringue): LMNOP. 79 Park Plaza, Boston. 338-7500.

A part of the restaurant Pignoli, LMNOP offers the best tartlets - small tarts - I've ever tasted. Everything here is good. The baker arrives in the morning and finishes her beautiful and delicious sweeties by noon. But everything here is gone by 3 p.m., especially on Saturday, so be there early. My friend brought me an 8" fruit tart with pastry cream and chocolate layered underneath the berries a week before finals my sophomore year, and I've been addicted to LMNOP since. The best thing here is lemon meringue - you have got to try it. Never keep the tarts over night - they just don't taste as good. LMNOP also serves sandwiches, pasta, soup, bread, and coffee.

Best cake: Pastiche. 92 Spruce Street, Providence, R.I. (401) 861-5190.

Pastiche is in Providence, but it's worth the trip. Half of the crowd in this small coffee house on weeknights drive all the way down from Boston. I guess that crowd occasionally includes myself. If you come here, you've got to try mascapone torte. It resembles tiramisu in many ways, including the major ingredients like mascapone, rum, espresso, sponge cake, etc. All cakes here can be ordered by slice or in small and large size. Other things worth trying are the lemon sponge cake, old-fashioned carrot cake, and strawberry shortcake. If you order cakes to bring home, remember to take a brochure at the cashier. It describes the best way to serve your cake.

Best tiramisu: Caffe Vittoria. 294 Hanover Street, Boston. 227-7606.

Carlo's Cucina Italiana. 131 Burlington Avenue, Allston. 254-9759.

If you go to North End, there is no better way to end the night than with tiramisu and a cup of coffee at Caffe Vittoria. Besides the twenty ways you can order a cup of coffee, you will find gelatin, ricotta cheese cake with thick ganache crust, canoli, and many other desserts - but nothing compares to tiramisu. My friend describes it as the best tiramisu in the world. It melts in your mouth. You can order it by piece to take home or in a box of 30 pieces (with a tiny discount). Just remember to keep it in the fridge.

And while I said I wasn't going to write about desserts in restaurants, when it comes to tiramisu, I have to mention Carlo's, a tiny family-operated North Italian cuisine. There is nothing fancy here, in decoration or in food. It is the simplest and homiest of Italian food. But the desserts are breathtaking. The tiramisu here has a little more rum in it, which I love, but the mascapone is not whipped as thick and stable as the tiramisu of Caffe Vittoria. Also try the truffle (ice cream in a hard chocolate shell) and the spumoni (pistachio and strawberry ice cream made to look like a wedge of water melon).

Best home-made ice cream: Christina's. 1251 Cambridge St., Cambridge.

Located in near Jae's, East Coast Grill, and La Crosta, Christina's ice cream attracts these restaurant-goers. The place is always packed during dinner time, especially in the summer. The ice cream has everything one can expect in the home-make version - creamy and packed with flavor. Personally, I am still loyal to Ben & Jerry's, and Toscanini's, of course. But so many people praise Christina's, there must be something to it.

Best cheesecake: Cheesecake Factory. At the CambridgeSide Galleria.

I'm tempted not to recommend the Cheesecake Factory, but I guess specialization does give the place an advantage. Even if I could find someplace else with cheesecake as good, it would not offer the comprehensive cheesecake menu the Cheesecake Factory does. I'd say it's pretty good for a chain restaurant.