We spent one day in Moscow completely underground on a self-guided tour of the metro system. We had looked at potentially joining a guided tour but found them to be quite expensive by Russian standards, so armed with a few recommendations saved onto our phones, we headed off to do a tour ourselves. The downside of this plan is that we didn’t know how long it would take to move between different metro lines and different stations, leaving us bereft of a plan for lunch.
By the time we found ourselves getting hungry, we found ourselves near a suburban shopping mall that offered a handful of less inspiring options for a meal – Dunkin Donuts, Subway, McDonalds, and a non-descript bakery. The best option if we wanted something resembling a meal rather than fast food was Il Patio, a chain of Italian restaurants that you can find in most malls across Moscow.
Il Patio offer a lunch special across all their restaurants, where you can get a soup, salad, a main and a drink for 395 Rubles ($8 AUD), a real bargain. The only downside is that they don’t offer English on their menus, so you have to try and match up the Cyrillic characters of the dishes in the lunch special with pictures on the main menu!
Alternatively, if you can teach yourself the basics of the Cyrillic alphabet, you can sound out each menu item to yourself as the name of each item is simply the Italian word written in Cyrillic – words like ‘minestrone’ and ‘mozzarella’ are pretty easy to sound out!
K ordered a chicken and vegetable soup which proved to be quite rich and a little oily. With a strong tomato base, the highlight of this full-bodied soup was the generous serving of chicken thigh meat which made this a very satisfying starter.
My minestrone soup wasn’t quite as satisfying unfortunately – it was more like a thin vegetable soup rather than a soup thickened with pasta starch. That’s what happens when you don’t put pasta in your minestrone!
K chose what I presume is a seafood garden salad, with the ‘seafood’ being limited to a few shrivelled and crumbly mussels that looked as though they had come straight out of a tin. Mind you, the salad itself was very nicely dressed – just pick out the mussels and it would be a tasty if simple salad.
I chose a classic Italian combination – tomato, mozzarella and basil, or a Caprese salad. I generally prefer my Caprese salads to use whole basil leaves with a drizzle of olive oil rather than pesto as it has a fresher and cleaner mouth-feel. Still, this was quite a tasty salad – simple is often best when it comes to Italian food!
K’s main was spaghetti in a creamy chicken and mushroom sauce – a simple and classic combination. It was done surprisingly well with a light and subtle touch. The pasta was cooked just right, and they didn’t overdo the sauce either. Mushrooms were plump and the chicken was tender and juicy. This is definitely not a dish that belongs in a $8 lunch deal – it stands alone quite well as a $20 dish!
I randomly chose a pizza for my main, and it turned out to be a salami and gherkin pizza. Unfortunately, this pizza wasn’t quite up to scratch as the base wasn’t as crispy as it should be, and the toppings were few and far between. Seven slices of salami and five slices of gherkin do not make a pizza especially when the base and sauce leaves a lot to be desired! Pizza definitely wouldn’t be my first choice at Il Patio.
If you find yourself doing a spot of shopping in a Russian mall, I’d recommend searching for Il Patio as your lunch destination within the mall. Their lunch deal is an absolute bargain, being on par with the cost of a fast food meal, and offers you greater choice and healthier options as well! If you’re only after a smaller feed, they also offer other lunch deal combinations, like a soup and a salad for 225 Rubles ($4.50 AUD). Not bad for an Italian joint in Russia – just make sure you order pasta rather than pizza!
There are branches of Il Patio located all over Moscow, see locations on their website.