I have only been to Mercato twice in my life but I believe it has become one of my top 5 favorite restaurants in Calgary. The food is delicious, no matter what I try, and the unique 'family style' way of dining is fun, intimate, and educational! The menu offers a traditional take on Italian dining, with four courses, plus vegetables. Portions are generally sized for 2 people, but we have found that ordering one antipasti, one primi, and one secondi is more than enough food for two people!
Our group of 12 chose Mercato as our May dinner club establishment. The unfortunate part about our experience was that we had to split up our table into 2 groups of 6 because Mercato only would offer us a 'set menu' for more than 7 people. Having had less than desirable experience with this in the past, we opted to try the split table idea in order to allow everyone to choose something off the menu. Overall, I think it worked out well, though, of course, there wasn't much communication between the two tables! And, this way everyone raved about the food that was consumed. It was awesome to try out so many new dishes I hadn't tasted before, too.
Pictures were tough to grasp as people dove right into the food as soon as it arrived. The bruschetta is quite divine at Mercato, with the 3 different types of toppings. Classic tomato and basil is always great, but toppings like tuna, goat cheese, and dates can make this dish a scrumptious offering.
Our wonderful waitress suggested that we order a couple of primi dishes and two or three secondi dishes, as most are meant to feed two people. The special of the night was gnocchi with Italian sausage, a favorite of the table. Also sampled were the risotto (probably one of the best I have ever had) along with the bucatini. This pasta dish was mixed with cheese and huge prawns - very tasty!
For the meat selections, pork ribs, a wonderfully cooked prime rib, and lamb were chosen. The beef was to die for, absolutely melt-in-your-mouth perfect! Cooked medium-rare, the slices were thick, juicy and full of fantastic flavor. While not a lamb fan, the one piece I did try was very good, yet overpowering. I am told the ribs were the least favorite dish of the evening, but I think overall everyone was very impressed with the food.