It was a cold winter day in 2007, I worked at an auto body shop and an older gentlemen walked in to fix the damage on his new SUV. While I was working on his quote he gave me his business card and I noticed he was the owner of Mercato. Soon enough we were on the topic of food and I could tell this gent was passionate about it.
Imagine my surprise earlier this year when I went to Fergus and Bix for a friends birthday party to see the Mercato sign. At first I thought this can’t be the same Mercato, the Mercato I knew was a cozy affair, how can they pull it off in this space which you could open a decent sized auto repair business.
Well with my curiosity and the lack of worthwhile fine dining on this side of town besides Le Villa I was looking forward to the experience. But I hit a bit of roadblock, even though it has only been opened for 3 months I couldn’t make a reservation on a weekend between 6:30-8:00, they were booked for a few weeks out.
As we arrived the hostess approached us immediately and we were seated right away. We each had a small bowl of olives already on the table. Water was offered and on the table in a timely manner. While browsing through the menu I noticed it’s nearly identical to their Mission location.
Our waiter was very personable but even too much so. After taking our drink orders he went into a schpeel about how people in North America eat backwards and the salad should be the last course to help with digestion.
For our first course we ordered the Carpaccio. It was topped with parmesan cheese shavings, arugula, lemon jiuce, thin red onions, kosher salt and was drizzled with olive oil. A perfect way to start off the meal. About halfway through the waiter came by and asked us if we’ve ever had the beef appetizer at another restaurant called Zen 8. He couldn’t remember the name of the dish but after he described it I mentioned Tataki and he replied “Yeah that’s it!” I found it odd that he was mentioning food from other restaurants.
Next up we had the gnocchi and tagliatelle. They serve the pastas in two sizes and even the small is fairly substantial bordering on the size of a main pasta in many sit down franchises. The handmade gnocchi were a large size and had mascarpone sauce with crunchy walnuts on top. I still prefer the mushroom gnocchi at Il Sogno but this dish I will order again. I’ve had it served with lamb and goat at the Mission Mercato before so thought I may miss my meat intake but didn’t.
The tagliatelle is the most popular pasta according to our waiter. It’s very basic but it’s the simplicity where a really good chef shines. The pasta was homemade and came in a spicy tomato sauce, it was delicious.
For our main we shared the Bistecca with mushrooms. We also wanted to have our tagliatelle served with the meat but our waiter said the timing just won’t work. We just let it go but it would have been nice to have some red sauce pasta with our main. The Bistecca is a very popular dish at Mercato, when it was served we were told “We serve about 200 of them a night.” They let the meat rest and then the chef cuts it with impressive precision to nice slabs of goodness. It’s wasn’t as seasoned compared to my memories of the Mission location but was still a good main.
The mushrooms were nicely sautéed and a good addition to the slices of beef.
I’m looking forward to our next dinner here and the reservation is already made. Overall if you are looking for a nice dining experience on the west side of Calgary I highly suggest you check out Mercato West.