Cafe al Mercado: A Back Corner Gem

“Wait where are we going again?”

“The market, that’s what it’s called.”

“Julianna, what even? This place better be good.”

And it was. This past Monday was especially warm for an Autumn day in the Bronx. My friends Julianna, Amanda and I followed Julianna’s lead to the Arthur Avenue Market filled with a florist, pizza place, and deli among other vendors. Housed in the back left corner was this week's stop: Café al Mercado.

Suspicious and starving, I ordered two types of focaccia: original and no cheese. The original slice was marinara sauce with fresh mozzarella on top, while the one with no cheese was marina with minced garlic in the center. More importantly, I was pleased to get a corner piece of each.

 

While our slices were being heated, Julianna, Amanda and I sat at one of the café’s maple-stained round tables and started chit-chatting. Not even for a second did I feel like I was in the Bronx. I had to keep reminding myself that I was a quick walk from Fordham’s campus. The brick wall and landscape painting made me feel like I was at my grandmother's house, or in a European café, or maybe even a movie. I’m still not able to explain exactly.

Before my first bite was finished, I knew I made the right decision by following Julianna. Hands down, the best pizza crust I could recall tasting; thin and crisp without a smidge of that flower that so many pizzerias leave beneath their pies. The marinara sauce was thick and hearty with sweet tomatoes peaking their way in at the end of every bite. The mozzarella on the original slice was laid out in one circular slab. I was worried it wouldn't melt properly or it would be too chewy, but I was soon proved wrong. The cheese was tender in my mouth without being wrinkly from bubbling in the heat of the oven. On the other slice, the garlic cloves were minced and placed in the center of the slice, serving as a solution to break up the sauce.

I regret not having the space in my stomach to try each slice of the focaccia pizza all in one sitting. If you only have enough room in your stomach for one slice (which I doubt) my pick would be the original cheese. Sink your teeth into the ooey-gooey fresh mozzarella.

The taste of the food isn’t what always makes the meal worth celebrating. It isn’t always about what you eat, but where you go, and who you’re with. I've never felt more at home or comfortable in a place I’d never been to before. While the pizza won over my taste buds, the atmosphere won over my heart.