Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mercatto: 'La Dolce Vita' on Toronto Street

Tucked away on Toronto Street between King and Adelaide is Mercatto, our favourite neighbourhood Italian restaurant. Warm and inviting, even on the coldest winter day this year, it's a place that serves a little taste of Tuscany and a decent bottle of wine without breaking the bank. Not only do they serve simple authentic italian cuisine all day, every day, but with a an extensive list of regional Italian wines, it's a winning combination that's pretty hard to beat. The interior is as warm and welcoming as the menu: polished dark wood floors with cozy sage banquettes, polished marble tables and a long reclaimed wood dining table sits front and centre, perfect for a large group. For more intimate dining, a private dining nook is nestled off to the side, wrapped with a wall of wine and crowned with a fabulous "branchalier" — a handmade twig chandelier — the perfect spot to celebrate special occasions, like the night we arrived bundled up for -30° weather. A big table of handsome young men were decked out in flowery leis celebrating the departure of good friends who were 'picking up stakes' and moving to Hawaii. On this night, as every night, the warm friendly service and consistent quality of the cucina Italiano is what makes every visit to Mercatto a memorable and enjoyable experience, and keep us coming back, again and again. It's what a successful neighbourhood restaurant is all about — la dolce vita — the small touches that make life a little sweeter. Aloha guys!

Mercatto's menu features assaggi, risottos, pizza, pastas and selection of piatti

Housemade Q-Water

An oversized chalkboard celebrates Mercatto's extensive selection of wines

A Tuscan Campinuovi Sangiovese from Montecucco

Carciofi - fried marinated artichokes with peperonati and a pesto cream

Barbabietole Arrosititi - roasted beets, burrata, arugula and almonds with a balsamic vinaigrette

Our server Jesse, who is also an actor and friend of the family!

Pollo alla Diavola - spicy chicken and creamy fregola with pancetta and cavolo nero

Siciliano Pizza with white anchovies, tomatoes, gaeta olives, chili and fior di latte

Rissoto Zafferano with saffron, ‘nduja, octopus, mussels and scallops

Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Rapini
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of chef Doug Neigel

1 bunch rapini, with 2-inches trimmed from bottom of stalks
4 cups dried orecchiette pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
12 oz Italian pork sausage, removed from casing
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 fresh red chili pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
4 tsp butter
1/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavily salted water to a boil. Add the rapini, return to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes, or until tender. Transfer the rapini to a colander and drain well. When cool enough to handle, chop into 1-inch pieces. Bring the water back to a boil, add the pasta and give a good stir. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook according to package directions. When cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cook until browned on all sides. Add the chopped rapini and reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the garlic and chili pepper. Add the white wine and the reserved pasta water which will give some starch and body to the sauce. Add the drained pasta and reduce the heat to low. Add the butter and cheese and combine well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. To serve, mound the pasta into a large serving dish or divide among individual serving bowls. Grate more cheese overtop, if desired.

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