Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mercatto on Toronto Street: A Taste of Italy

Every neighbourhood has their own local Italian restaurant. A place that serves a little taste of Tuscany and a decent bottle of wine without breaking the bank. Living downtown, there are many places to choose from, but only a few that are just around the corner, which for us is Mercatto, nestled away on Toronto Street between King and Adelaide. One of five 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. 

Mercatto's short but solid menu

Soft candlelight set the mood on the long harvest table 

Warm squishy bread and full flavoured Italian olive oil

A glass of cool crisp Gavi di Gavi

Ontario brewed Hop City Barking Squirrel Amber Lager 

Blueberry and Strawberry Juice

Carrot Soup garnished with grated Parmigiano, dill and almonds

Prosciutto with a mixture of warm spiced olives and Taralli with Fennel Seeds

Mixed Salumi with olives and Taralli

Barbabietole Arrostiti of roasted beets, burrata, arugula, almonds and aged balsamic 

Linguine with bay scallops, calamari, PEI mussels, filetto di pomodoro and peperoncini 

Agnello Pizza with lamb sausage, Calabrese olives, charred onions, oregano, 
fior di latte and San Marzano tomatoes

Perth Pork, Chop with Norcia lentils, fennel, orange and harissa

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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