Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mercato in Philadelphia - a quick, tasty review

As I finish up my lunch of Italian left overs, I am feeling quite content in the fact that last night's dinner was large enough to spill over into the next day. I have no photos, elaborate critiques of menu, ambiance, or service--but I have to spread the word that MERCATO in Philadelphia is a top notch B.Y.O. restaurant. Tiffany and I decided to make last night a date night with a bottle of copper colored Venetian Pinot Grigio...we settled on trying out Mercato because we had heard good things about their cheese selection. We loved everything about our meal and the experience.

We started with a generous cheese course [in retrospect we would have saved it for dessert]: pecorino ginepro and caciotta al tartufo. Ginepro - a firm, aged sheeps' milk cheese, cured in balsamic and juniper berries (if memory serves me correctly). The second choice was a delicious truffled goat cheese, also hard and aged to perfection. The board came out with balsamic for dipping, apple slices, and some delicious grapes. We snacked on the cheese, had a bit of bread, and then finished getting full on a wonderful roasted artichoke, reminiscent of carciofi ordered in Rome. This was all before the main course.

We splurged for the evening specials. Tiffany decided to see how their rich, italian sausage meat-sauce tasted over fresh made fettucine. I opted for the fish: a mountain of cobia tastiness. The fish was cooked perfectly; it was fresh tasting and not at all fishy (at least not in a bad way). It was topped with some crab meat and as my fork worked its way through the fish, I discovered a heaping portion of brocoli rabe. Both dishes were outstanding. The large portions sealed the deal that Mercato serves quality food for a great value.

By the way, the menu is vast and fun, the ambience is modern Italian bistro-esque, and the service is welcoming. The staff did not make us feel rushed and I observed as they offered to decant the next table's vino. I only wish I had been able to chat with the three presumably Mexican cooks working their hearts out in the tiny exposed kitchen; great job & thank you!! This place at Spruce and Camac Street is really worth checking out; even if you just want to do an antipasti tasting. Mercato really made our evening a special one. I can't wait to check out the sister restaurant, Valanni, for happy hour specials.

FYI, our wine selection was: Specogna Pinot Grigio Ramato (2007), Venezia, Italia.

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