It is easy to see why many parents of young children avoid restaurants and prefer to eat at home. The thrown food will hit only members of the immediate family, and few things match the embarrassment of a meltdown in a restaurant. But sometimes it’s necessary, and even fun, to eat out. Many parents want to dine out in a way that doesn’t involve plastic trays or eating leftover cocktail sausages while watching over your child in a pool of multi-coloured balls. It is important to choose a child-friendly restaurant, preferably one casual and loud enough to absorb any noise your little darlings might make. Years ago, before Dominos had come to town and Papa Johns was not even invented, there were only two options for pizza, for two different stages of your life. Monroe’s in Dominick Street was our preference for a slice before children, a great pre– or post–pub spot. In Galway, when you first have a baby, the traditional starting point is Milano on Middle Street.
Now the options for pizza are many and varied, and nowhere more so than Middle Street which is also the new home to the ever popular Dough Bros, and new kid on the block Wooza. Not all restaurants embrace children, but Milano is one of the city’s most child-friendly spots that go out of the way to accommodate small customers, while still having food that Mum and Dad will want to eat too. It is part of the Pizza Express chain, and while not the cheapest option, it offers great value and the food is freshly made and always consistent.
The restaurant has put a whole lot of thought into the Piccolo menu. Kids can tuck into a four-course feast including dough balls with garlic butter, side salad, a pasta or pizza main, ice-cream, and a babychino to finish. For a long time, this was the only decent changing facility in town and there are enough highchairs to seat an army of babies. The staff here are bomb proof and have seen it all before. They are pros at helping first timers guide their brand new Bugaboo through the tables and have ninja reflexes when it comes to whisking glasses out of the reach of toddlers. Best of all, no matter how badly your children behave there is always someone else whose child is being even more disgraceful than yours.
Milano also has something that the other pizza places do not have, and that is choices — salads, pasta dishes, and a wide range of starters, a comprehensive drinks menu, and not-to-be-skipped desserts. The vegan, gluten intolerant, and calorie counters are not forgotten either.
On our last visit we were looking forward to a child-free lunch. We shared lightly crumbed crispy calamari rings served with a zingy Çaesar dressing to start, before tucking into a Leggera pizza and the creamy cannelloni from the autumn menu, soft pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, baked with tomato, béchamel, mozzarella, garlic oil, and Gran Milano cheese.
I am partial to their tiramasu, but this time had the honeycomb cream slice, honeycomb and chocolate pieces in a light cream topping on a layer of salted caramel and crunchy biscuit. For chocolate lovers, the irresistible chocolate fondant is available again on the autumn menu, a rich and intense warm chocolate cake with a soft melting centre, served with vanilla gelato.
Located in the heart of Galway next to the Cornstore, Milano on Middle Street is well known for its relaxed and sociable atmosphere. It first opened in 1999 and currently has 35 local employees, including seven pizzaiolos and 18 waiters and waitresses. The restaurant has recently re-opened with a new look and feel and is still a haven for harassed parents, ideal for date night diners, friend and family gatherings, and is a popular party venue. A long standing favourite for delicious food in relaxed surroundings. If you haven’t been for a while, the new and improved Milano is well worth a revisit.
Milano, Townhouse 24, The Cornstore, Middle Street, Galway. Phone (091 ) 568 488. www.milano.ie