Address: 159, Xinhai Rd Sec 2, Taipei (台北市辛亥路二段159號)
Telephone: (02) 2736-8478
Open: Daily, 11am to 9:30pm
Average meal: NT$200
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards not accepted; non-smoking
For those unable or unwilling to leave Taipei's environs to see the island's beauty, but who still crave a little fresh air or a place to walk or bike without the threat of being struck by a scooter or choked by bus exhaust fumes, National Taiwan University's (NTU) campus is a sprawling complex of well manicured lawns and historic buildings with little traffic. It's arguably one of the best places within the city limits to spend an afternoon outside.
Mediterranean Sea is located across the street from National Taiwan University's entrance on Xinhai road. Upon entering the recently opened pizza joint, proprietor Auntie Apple (蘋果阿姨) makes an effort to greet Westerners with a few words of passable English.
The restaurant is decorated in the popular idea of what constitutes Mediterranean aesthetics: the whitewash walls are contrasted by beams, benches and frames finished in ultramarine blue and the glass-topped tables contain pebbles and shells. The first floor benefits from large windows that provide views of the tree-lined boulevards and the campus beyond. There is a mezzanine section, which is smaller than the first floor, and taller patrons are warned to duck.
The food is solidly Italian, with an emphasis on pizzas and pasta. The menu's appetizer selection is small and includes Caesar salad and tuna salad (both NT$160).
There are eight varieties of thin-crust pizza that come in small or large (with an NT$20 price difference between the two - the prices of large pizzas are used in this review). Along with the usual Hawaiian and vegetarian (NT$140) choices, there are also versions of regional favorites such as the margherita pizza (NT$110) - a simple yet delicious combination of mozzarella, fresh basil, garlic and cherry tomatoes.
The pizza alle vongole (NT$160) is an inspiration. The foundation is the same as the margherita, but as the pie is baking in the oven, fresh clams are cooked in white wine and then placed on the pie after it comes out of the oven. The light hints of wine compliment the fresh basil, garlic and tomatoes. There's only one thing to complain about: the clamshells made their way onto the margherita.
The menu also features a few pasta dishes including pesto spaghetti (NT$120) and spaghetti with pesto and cream sauce (NT$140). Neither will win any competitions, but like the pizzas, the ingredients were fresh and the quantity satisfying.
After filling up on pizza and pasta, the restaurant's close proximity to the NTU campus means burning off a few calories is a stroll in the park.