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.
Salumi Board with olives and taralli
Casarecce with lamb ragu, porcini and honey mushrooms, cavalo purée and grated padano
Chitarra alla Carbonara with pancetta, black pepper, egg and pecorino
Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Rapini
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
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.