With so many amazing restaurants to choose from for Philly Restaurant week, you’d think it would be a hard decision for my girlfriend Ricki to pick where we’d be going. For Ricki, this was a no-brainer! She immediately told me to try to make a reservation at Mercato, a cozy little BYOB on 12th and Spruce. You wouldn’t believe her reaction when she found out I got us in!
Mercato is a tiny cash-only BYOB that normally does not accept reservations, so it is very difficult to get in. Mercato uses Old World Italian Cooking traditions with Italian-American cuisine using only the freshest ingredients in season. Ricki got me so excited to try this place out, I could not wait!
For restaurant week, each person chooses an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. Our table of four- Ricki, Genna, and Rebecca, decided to share appetizers with Ricki and I sharing our entrees as well (she’s as indecisive as me!).
The Mercato Antipasti comes with Italian meats and cheeses, grilled & marinated veggies, and a crostini. This serving was for “one” but it was big enough for us all to have a taste of everything!
Two of us ordered the Whole Grilled Artichoke. I have only had grilled artichoke hearts before, so eating the entire thing was really an experience for me! The artichoke was served grilled with EVOO, a line of Sea Salt, and a Citrus Aioli on the side. I love salty so dipping the individual leaves in the salt before scraping the “meat” off was so yummy.
We also ordered the Trio of Bruschetta which was really the only disappointing item of the night. The trio included one mushroom, one hummus, and one fresh tomato cheese-covered crostini. Although these tasted good, I would have liked this dish more if the cheese wasn’t melted- it reminded me more of a mini pizza than a bruschetta.
Genna’s entrée was the night’s Special Tilapia which looked light and fresh. It was a pretty decently big portion of fish too. Rebecca ordered a modified version of Pumpkin Fettucini, which normally comes with sage brown butter, leeks, crispy parsnip & pancetta, and roasted butternut squash. I definitely have to try this one next time I come back!
Both Ricki and I have a hard time passing up Scallops when we are out, so that was the first dish we decided to split. Mercato’s Pan Seared Diver Scallops were served with wild mushroom & english pea risotto, a parmesan crisp, and truffle oil. The presentation was gorgeous! Amazing what a parmesan crisp can do!
We couldn’t decide which pasta to order since they all sounded so good! We asked our server and without hesitation, she advised us to order the Short Rib Ragu. She told us it was her favorite dish on the entire menu, and WOW, was she right!!! The short rib meat was so tender, it was truly a “melt-in-your-mouth” experience. It was served in a brown sauce over homemade ricotta gnocchi, broccoli rabe, and long pieces of shaved locatelli cheese. The gnocchi (something I’ve never ordered out) was light and fluffy and wasn’t too heavy. This has to be one of my top pasta dishes out there!
As if this wasn’t a big enough food-gasm for us girls… we were given the option of a few deserts when we were through with our meals. We all decided to go with the Bittersweet Molten Chocolate Cake. The description of “liquid chocolate center” was no exaggeration… the middle was filled with thick, liquidy, hot, rich CHOCOLATE! This Molten Cake was like no other I’ve ever seen, it reminded me more of a soufflé, baked in individual ramekins with a crusty top underneath a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Once you broke through the crisp top, a heavenly pool of chocolate was waiting underneath… and needless to say, ALL FOUR of us finished our entire dessert. OMG.
Mercato was definitely all it was cracked up to be… no wonder there’s a one to two hour wait on any given night. I am already dying to go back!