Mercato’s (Italian for market) is nestled on Spruce St. in Center City. It’s menu features fantastic appetizer options, or introduziones. The Mercato antipasti ($17) is a large plate of fine Italian meats, mozzarella, grilled and marinated vegetables, and crostinis. It’s perfectly designed for a party of two (or four) and is a wonderful way to start your meal. Also highly enjoyable is the roasted portabella and arugula salad ($9) enclosed in puff pastry with pecorino cheese, pine nuts and a thyme citronette. If neither of these tickle your fancy, the mussels and clams ($10) served in a steamy white wine and garlic broth with hot Italian sausage, is absolutely wonderful.
Mercato’s entrees change to reflect the season. Pay close attention to the nightly specials, since the Chef R. Evan Turney takes full advantage of which vegetables, fish, and meats are in season. Unforgettable plates include Mercato’s orecchiette (plated with meatballs, sweet sausage, broccoli rabe and red gravy, $17) the lobster and shrimp "pyramid" pasta (asparagus and parmesan brown butter sauce, $22), and the roasted half chicken (lathered in creamy mozzarella and basil polenta and complimented with asparagus and smoked bacon, $19). For the guest who opts for the parmesan crusted veal cutlets ($23), you’re in for a delicious meal and will be hesitant to give anyone a taste.
Mercato’s dessert selection is classic Italia. Tiramisu ($8), gelato ($8), and mascarpone cheesecake ($8) are always a safe bet. However, as wonderful as these classic desserts are, opt for the affogato (ladyfingers topped with vanilla bean ice cream accompanied by a double shot of espresso, $8), you won’t be disappointed.
Mercato is a cash-only BYOB so grab a bottle of your favorite wine before you head out. They also don’t take reservations and the popularity of this small bistro prevents large parties from just dropping in, especially on the weekends. Mercato does, however, make the wait bareable, since it’s sister restaurant across the street, Valanni, serves cocktails at their elegant bar.
Once you have visited Mercato, you’ll wish it was your little secret. But waiting for a good meal won’t be a problem, especially when the meal is as delicious as the one’s served at Meracato.