For all of the recommendations I received from various sources, sometimes the restaurants we end up visiting while in another city are based purely on circumstance. It could be that some places are just not kid-friendly while others are not located nearby where we would end up. Hence, most of the spots we visit may not be the "usual" nor overly sexy. This brought us to Mercato, which was somewhat near our hotel, for lunch one day. This lil' Italian spot sure seemed homey and just the right place for 2 families.
We began with the Frittura di Pesce which was a bounty of fried calamari, shrimp and cod. We found the batter light and crispy while totally not greasy. The calamari was large and tender while retaining an appealing chewiness whereas the shrimp were meaty with a firm snap. As for the fish, it was buttery and flaky with even less batter then the calamari and shrimp. I particularly liked the mild tomato dipping sauce. Next, we had the Spinaci Salad with raisins, apples and goat cheese. This was lightly dressed which allowed the ingredients to be heard such as the sweet apples, even sweeter raisins and creamy gamy goat cheese.
For my main, I had the Orecchiette Cime di Rapa e Acciughe (broccoli rabe, anchovies, bread crumbs, garlic and olive oil). This was a drier concoction with firm pasta coated with bread crumbs. It wasn't particularly flavourful until mixed in with the crisp rabe since the anchovies had adhered to them. Together, the flavours were good. Viv ended up with the Gnocchi with beef and pork ragu. The tender nuggets of potato pasta were a good balance of soft and firm. Hence, there was a nice bite to them. The rich ragu had body and depth while not subjected to much salt.
Our kiddies had the Lasagna with béchamel and beef ragu. Due to the béchamel, the whole thing was creamy and rich. However, the hearty ragu added a real meatiness while providing body to the dish. What brought it all together was the mild, yet flavourful tomato sauce which had a cheesiness to it. Costanza's kiddies had the Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil. As simple as this was, the execution was on point. Featuring al dente pasta and an abundance of flavourful and tart chunks of tomato, the whole thing tasted fresh and bright.
The best dish of all was the Seafood Linguine which was the beneficiary of an array of seafood including calamari, shrimp, mussels and clams. The sauce was impactful with the taste of white wine and briniess from the shellfish. Even though it seemed too saucy, the pasta was well-flavoured and the seafood was on point. As I mentioned in the intro, sometimes the best places are the ones off the beaten path. I'm not sure if Mercato qualifies as such, but it was definitely not on our radar. I guess it should've been from the start.
- Solid eats
- Nice people
- Seating is a bit tight