The Merk Bistro Italiano
820 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101 (map); 619-814-6375; themerk.com
Pizza Style: Thin-crust dessert pizza (plus a variety of more traditional options)
Oven Type: Gas
Price: Chocolate Pig and Sweet Pete, $14 each
Dessert pizza can be divisive: some people refuse to acknowledge any interpretation of pizza that doesn't feature cheese and tomato sauce, while others, myself included, will happily call baked dough covered with Nutella and berries just about anything you want me to.
The Merk Bistro Italiano offers three different dessert pizzas. The Chocolate Pig is a thin crust pie topped with Nutella, strawberry slices, chocolate shavings and (wait for it...) bacon.
You might have hesitations about the bacon, but let me assure you, it's a stroke of genius. The salty, crunchy pork contrasts deliciously with rich Nutella base and the sweet, juicy berries. The diced bacon is scattered across the top of the pizza, which meant the savory, salty flavor registered in every bite, accentuating—but not overpowering—the sweetness of the pie.
The Sweet Pete was more traditional (read: less meaty.) Thin apple slices and blackberries were arranged over a Nutella base with white chocolate shavings on top. The highlight of this sweet-on-sweet pizza was biting into the blackberries, which exploded with a gush of warm, sweet juice. The crisp apple slices and white chocolate made this pizza more comfortably within dessert territory, and despite the fact that everyone at the table was keyed up about the Chocolate Pig, this pizza disappeared first.
The only thing keeping these pies from being stellar was the crust, which was thin, cracker-like, and uniformly crisp. It was too brittle for a dessert pie. A softer, more pliant crust would have been a better match with the sweet and juicy toppings. Still, despite this flaw, the Merk's sweet spin on a traditionally savory dish was a tasty departure from the ordinary.