Restaurant Review: Mercato in Mission
Located in inner city Calgary is the district of Mission; this neighbourhood is one of my Calgary favourites, it hosts the annual Lilac Festival and is home to many chic restaurants and shops. Nestled on a particularly lovely corner is Mercato Italian Gourmet. My parents brought me here for my 24th birthday and I have been in love ever since.
I really will look for any excuse to celebrate with delectable food, but nothing felt more perfect than celebrating Joel's 26th birthday with a weekend in Calgary. We actually celebrated a few things this past weekend, not only did we celebrate Joel's birthday, we sent Summer off in a spectacular fashion and stepped in the the final year of my undergrad by attending an alternative music festival, X-Fest.
Now, Mercato has this amazing open kitchen, thus we always make reservations to sit where we can view the kitchen. I would honestly consider making a reservation anyway because I have never seen this place slow. You are welcomed by the scent of parmigiano and whisked past tables full of animated faces to your seat.
The food here is served family style, so I would say come with your loved ones and a your appetite! The menu has some seasonal elements but you will find most of your favourites are menu staples.
If there had been more than just the two of us we would have ordered faaar more from the Antipasti. But in order to save room for all of the other delicious offerings we stuck to the classic Bruschetta. Now, I know what you're thinking:
"Ground breaking.... Bruschetta at an Italian restaurant"
BUT! This is a trio of Bruschetta, one seasonal offering and two that they offer year round. The seasonal was a Gorgonzola with figs, while the staple offerings are: a classic tomato, basil and balsamic vinegar and a white bean with crispy speck. Now, let me tell you, the tomatoes on the classic bruschetta are bright and flavourful, they are nothing like any tomato I have ever eaten before; they are in a word, perfection. The white bean with speck is velvety and salty, while the Gorgonzola was creamy and complex with a hint of sweetness from the figs. Honestly my favourite is consistently the classic, I could eat a full bowl of just the topping sans the bread!
Other notable Antipasti dishes are their Caprese salad (the tomatoooos) and the Scarafoglie, which is chicken liver pate with a layer of duck fat on the top. Now stay with me here, I was scared to try it too but honestly it is the most heavenly dish and I honestly find myself craving it quite often.
Next we had the Primi course or pasta, now those of you who have seen my bottom know that I clearly love carbs (even though I try to limit myself most days), and besides pizza, pasta is my lifeblood when it comes to carbs.
Everything is good, every, single pasta on this menu is delicious. I cannot express to you through the use of words just how amazing Mercato's pasta is...
We decided on the Cannelloni, filled with veal and pork, smothered in the most amazing tomato sauce (honestly, these tomatos are really THAT deelish) and then baked with gluttonous amounts of ooey, gooey, cheese.
I mean, I just can't.... It's just so amazing.
While I honestly would order anything off of the Primi section of the menu my other favourite dish is the Tagliatelle, once again it is that bright, tarte, yet subtle pomodoro sauce with fresh pasta and the perfect amount of salty reggiano.
Then, the crown jewel of the meal: Secondi or the protein course. Now, I have to admit, we order the same protein every time we come. Once you see the photos you will totally understand. I mean I am sure the other choices are delectable, but.. oh here just look!
This steak... Oh my goodness, it is cooked to a perfect medium rare, generally on the more rare side (which I love). The chef pulls out this ginormous cut of meat and slaps it on a grill over fire, deftly salting the meat. Once it is cooked he slices the meat, places the greens on top and drizzles the entire dish with olive oil; atop the dish he places two halves of a grilled lemon.
I am honestly salivating at the thought of this dish, the lemon, salt and olive oil come together to create the perfect ballet of flavours. This dish legitimately inspires me to use absurd turns of phrase like "ballet of flavours", that is how good it is.
It's just so good. I accidentally sent one of the lemon halves flying because I am the most graceful and poised human being...
Usually to accompany the Secondi one orders Contorni, or a side dish. They have delicious asparagus with proscuitto and the broccolini with balsamic vinegar is also divine; but the mushrooms are truly my favourite.
Now, I do not like mushrooms. Let me repeat, I do not like mushrooms.
My mother is the only one in family who likes them and everyone else lovingly calls them "fungus". Somehow I managed to hook a mushroom lover in Joel (weirdo); but these mushrooms are, perfection.
They are earthy and flavourful. If every mushroom tasted as these do I would eat them all the time. After we eat here I always wish we were staying somewhere with a kitchen because they give you a ton of mushrooms and I want to make a stir fry out of the left overs!
I always wish I had left room for dessert, but sadly I once again did not. We usually finish off our meals with a coffee, latte for Joel and a cappuccino for me (it's all about the foam).
Honestly, the next time you have a few hours either for lunch or dinner and you find yourself in Calgary call Mercato to make a reservation overlooking the kitchen. Watching the chef's prep your food is truly delightful and adds to the experience. The staff is so wonderful and helpful, and you even see the owners and their family eating there quite often.
If you really really love something and you have access to your kitchen or a kitchen, you can pop over to their deli (which is attached to the restaurant) and purchase their pasta, sauces, meats and so many other delicious goodies.