Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mercatto: Regional Italian Cuisine at Toronto & King

Nestled away on Toronto Street between King and Adelaide is Mercatto, our favourite neighbourhood Italian restaurant. One of four locations in the city, this restaurant was the original, and I believe the best. Warm and inviting with a smaller more intimate feel, the food is simple and delicious, and the staff consistently excellent. Regional Italian fare made with fresh seasonal ingredients and complimented by Mercatto's award-winning wine list from Italy’s diverse wine regions, makes dining at Mercatto a real pleasure.

The long communal table made of reclaimed wood, for larger groups

Mercatto's 'Enomatic' wine preservation system serves 24 wines 
by the glass, and they taste just as they were when first opened 

Mercatto's Q-water filtration system creates still and sparkling water eliminating 
purchasing, inventory, refrigerating and recycling of bottled water

Chef Neigel's new winter menu

Candle-lit tables with blue striped towel-style napkins and modern stemware 
set the mood during the evening at Mercatto

A deep green herbaceous olive oil and fresh bread

Crostini ai Funghi with foraged mushrooms, mozzarella di bufala and balsamic drizzle

Lamb Carpaccio with arugula, shaved ricotta salata and pistachios 
with a delicious mint crema

Seared Scallops with brussels sprout leaves, squash and truffled cauliflower

Garganelli with Rabbit ragu, pancetta, panna fresca and padano cheese

A sweet and delicious Moscato d’Asti with hints of peach and apricot,
compliments of the 'house'

Thanks again to our server Scott for another memorable meal, 
and to Davis for his wine recommendations and complimentary glass of Moscato

Executive chef Doug Neigel oversees Mercatto's group of restaurants

Simple, fast and delicious, executive chef Doug Neigel shares this recipe for Bucatini With Lobster, Tomato and Herbs, which showcases whole lobsters simmered in white wine and shallots, spiked with tomato and red chili with a light, flavourful chiffon of parsley, chives, chervil and mint. Having been executive chef at Malena and L'Unita in Yorkville, prior to joining Mercatto over a year ago, Neigel is now executive chef their four Italian eateries, including Trattoria Mercatto in the Eaton Centre. "The challenges at Mercatto are different. It’s more mental than physical. My office is a laptop and shoulder bag, and with four restaurants, I do a lot of walking." 

Bucatini With Lobster, Tomato & Herbs
Serves 4
Recipe by Chef Doug Neigel, Mercatto; photo Keith Beaty, Toronto Star

2  1 1/2-pound cooked lobsters
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 fresh red finger chili, halved, seeded, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup diced canned tomatoes
Salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 lb dried bucatini or perciatelli
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs: parsley, chives, chervil and mint

Working over bowl to catch juices, remove lobster meat from shells. Cut lobster meat into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the bowl with juices and set aside.

In large, deep fry pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and chili and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer 1 minute. Then add the tomatoes, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to instructions on package. Place the sauce over medium-low heat and stir in the lobster and its juices. Right before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce along with remaining 3 tbsp of oil and herbs. Cook while stirring, until the pasta is well coated, about 1 minute. If the pasta seems dry, moisten with the cooking water to taste. Taste for seasoning and transfer to large platter. Serve immediately.

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