Bianca: This one was on the horizon for some time, my co-worker Joyce (Little Rocket) and I have a freakish obsession with food and had heard about this Italian food emporium. Very similar to the famous ‘Eataly’ in NYC co-owned by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich. Situated on a fairly sizeable piece of land fronting Victoria road is this ‘market and kitchen’.
With 2/3rds of the space dedicated to a supermarket, deli and bakery churning out cakes and coffee. Coming up in the elevator the doors opened onto the ‘market’ portion, so we dawdled our way over to the restaurant. Twenty minutes later meandering around the store we made it to the other side to the restaurant, we were greeted after a good few minutes and after numerous staff members spotted and continued to walk straight past us. We were told that breakfast was wrapping up in ten minutes and we would have to wait well over an hour for lunch service at 12pm. More wandering around then….
Mildly annoying but our circumstances were more than ideal, a bakery with coffee and bite sized treats, we weren’t exactly reaching to kill time. Ogling the cakes in the display window was a tough gig, I knew lunch was going to be a big affair so held back on the rich sweets till, perhaps, after lunch. We bought two coffees, a Long Black with a shot of skim milk and a skim cappuccino from the brusk lady behind the register. A little unnecessary considering there was a bit of a lull.
At 12pm we sidled on over to the restaurant area where we were again ignored for a few moments before being acknowledged and seated. This next sentence is definitely going to upset the Nonni but I don’t eat a great deal of pizza and pasta these days, verging on none. So I knew that knocked out more than half of the menu on offer.
Little Rocket and I settled on the ‘Salumi Misti Al Tafliere’ – A selection of sliced meats & cheeses with marinated olives, condiments and bread $23.50. All from the surrounding deli and bakery. What was brought, was a small wooden tray filled to the brim with cold cut meats, four slices of white Italian bread, crisp bread, marinated olives, capsicums and artichokes. A generous serve for two people, one to share with 3-4 to people. On the board was shaved ham, mortadella, two types of salami, prosciutto, and half a thumb size of blue cheese and a tiny slither of brie. Definitely on the stingy side with the cheese, some fresh bocconcini or ricotta would have been a great addition to cut through all the deli meat. The artichoke was a stand out on the board.
Lil Rocket opted for the main size serving of the ‘Gnocchi – with a Gorgonzola, tallegio, parmesan, pecorino cream sauce with crushed honey roasted hazelnuts& truffle oil. $29.50. The Gnocchi itself would impress the Nonno and Nonna. My grandmother makes, in my opinion the best gnocchi I have ever eaten and this didn’t fall too far short. It melted in the mouth. The sauce was extremely rich but surprisingly I was able to differentiate between all the cheeses. Poor lil Rocket left a third of her meal behind. A serving for someone with a very big appetite. Or maybe sans half the pig at the start of the meal.
Being honest there wasn’t much that sung to me on the menu, back in the day I would have gone mad for the pasta and pizza but I tend to lead a healthier lifestyle these days. I was drawn to the ‘Costeletta Di Vitello’ – A crumbed veal cutlet served with pickled eggplant, semi dried cherry tomatoes, arugula & salsa verde. I must have completely misread the menu, so I was taken aback when a veal schnitzel arrived. I’m familiar with Cotoletta so the fact I ordered a schnitzel should not have surprised me. Never the less, it was delicious, a generous serving of crumbed and pan fried veal on the bone. Schnitzel can be touch and go sometimes, dry and tough but this was cooked perfectly, still medium to medium rare in some sections. The side salad was a great accompaniment to the crumbed veal, with the pickled eggplant being a standout. What would have tipped this dish over to fabulous would have been some sort of chutney or sauce on the side. It became a little difficult and dry to eat after a while.
Lil Rocket and I enjoyed our lunch-date at Mercato E Cucina, service was unfortunately a let-down. They tended to be a little aloof, not the best quality in a waiter. It took us almost 5 minutes to flag down somebody to bring the bill, bit of a worry.
We finished our afternoon with a bit of a shop, some lovely cherry vincotto and a cookie dough frozen yoghurt. As well as a run in with Masterchef alum Alvin Quah and yes, I did nerd out.
Despite some flaws, come on a Saturday, peruse, shop and eat. Bring your grandmother, she’ll thank you.