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After opening a fleet of Italian places, Michael Rizzo and his family wanted Schnitzel & Co. to be different, a Swiss German place.

The restaurant (15 New Road, Amherst) was formerly a Rizzo Italian pasta parlor. It’s been redone so thoroughly inside you can practically hear the yodeling.

To go with the racks of steins decorating the walls, and the selection of German brews on tap, Rizzo decided Schnitzel needed a big soft pretzel, because what goes better with a cold Spaten?

“It seemed like such a perfect fit, because we do all our own breads anyways,” as well as all the pastas, he said.

Pretzels are made from a yeast dough, too. A long strip is cut from the mass, then rolled into a cylinder, and formed into an ornate Z like those found in the logos of Rizzo restaurants.

Once shaped, the dough is gently lowered into a pot of boiling water that’s been augmented with baking soda. That helps create the shiny surface of the pretzel, and helps in browning. “It actually holds its shape pretty well,” Rizzo said. A minute in the baking soda bath also starts to cook the pretzel, and it puffs up.

At that point the pretzel is removed, drained and cooled for service. It’s sprinkled with coarse kosher salt, and then baked for about 10 to 12 minutes, Rizzo said. On the menu at $4, it’s served warm with four accompaniments.

First is a ramekin of cheese fondue, made of German beer and cheeses like Gruyere and cheddar. The precise beer used will change monthly based on what’s featured at Schnitzel’s Brew Crew beer seminar, held on the third Monday of the month, Rizzo said.

Then there’s dabs of three different mustards: hot mustard, honey mustard and standard yellow.

Tearing apart a fresh hot pretzel is enough to make you wonder what you ever saw in those wooden mass-produced versions. If you pair it with a German draft brew tasting session, you might even classify it as an educational experience.

For information, call 689-3600 or visit www.schnitzelandcompany.com.

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