I’ve been aching to try out Cafe Merkato ever since we discovered that it’s run by the same people as Pinzeria by Bontempi (near Christ the Saviour Cathedral) which my husband’s Italian colleagues describe as serving the best pizza in Moscow (and if the Italians don’t know about good pizza then who does?). Situated by the beach volleyball courts in the centre of Gorky Park, Cafe Merkato is the more relaxed, family-friendly member of the Bontempi empire.
We went for lunch with the kids on a gloriously warm Saturday* and sat out on the terrace – which is the sort of flower-filled place that makes you feel relaxed even before the Prosecco has arrived. The food didn’t disappoint: the pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven ticked all the boxes and the antipasti platter and salmon carpaccio tasted as good as they look.
There is a little children’s corner indoors (which moves to the grass outside
in summer) with toys for toddlers and tables for older ones to occupy themselves with colouring. It also boasts plenty of highchairs and wins a prize for being the first place in Moscow that I’ve found with a baby-changing table.
Most health-conscious parents will be happy to learn that there are no French Fries on the children’s menu, and with pizza and pasta to choose from most kids wouldn’t miss them either, but my 4-year old declared that the absence of his favourite treat means that he doesn’t want to come here again. So, as I definitely want to make a return (tantrum-free) visit, then next time I’ll come with my husband on a warm summer evening when Beanie-boy is safely at home with a babysitter – because Cafe Merkato would also be a great choice for date night!
*Despite the date at the top of the page, we actually visited in August 2015.