Mercato Italiano, the quaint Italian spot in the heart of Norton Commons, recently unveiled its new menu for 2020 – its first significant menu revision in almost 2 years. The change-up offers loads of new cravable comfort fare, fresh salads, unique side choices, and a host of new scratch-made dessert options. Thankfully many of our old favorites remain too. In fact, there are so many tantalizing options on the new menu we needed some help exploring the choices. To get the full scoop, we interviewed Head Chef and owner Pete Pagano. His clear enthusiasm for both his dishes and his clients did not disappoint.
We know that being a neighborhood place requires that we listen to what our regulars want while still keeping things fresh. Being creative with food is one of my favorite parts about being a chef. We have been experimenting and trying new dishes for a while now, and the timing seemed perfect to coincide with the new year.
We have a lot of yummy new dishes. We really changed up our entrees and made them a little more well-rounded. The monkfish dish with a charred eggplant puree that we’re offering is a unique dish and is getting good reviews. We’re also featuring a local lettuce salad, created especially for Mercato from Grateful Greens which is a great way to start a meal. We also created several new desserts including a couple of gluten-free options including a flourless chocolate torte with caramel sea salt gelato.
Ha! The prosciutto salad did make the cut. We still have most of the pastas we were featuring before. We still have our popular short rib ravioli, orechiette neri and our traditional spaghetti and meatballs. We tried to listen to our customers both by talking to them and in analyzing the sales data so that we didn’t cut something that would be sorely missed.
Tough question. It very much depends on when you ask me! Our new chicken dish might be my current favorite. It’s a blend of the things I have learned during my culinary experience. As a French-trained chef, I wanted to incorporate some of that in the new dishes while staying true to Italian cuisine and my heritage. We take a French technique called roulade and unroll the chicken breast and stuff it with our house made basil pesto. We serve it with a creamy risotto and a delicious chicken glace.
My Grandma was born in Italy, as was my dad, and the whole family came over from Italy in 1955. We would have Sunday dinner over at my Grandma’s every week. She used to make us penne and meatballs which she cooked all day. So, I would have to say either our Mercato Meatball or spaghetti and meatballs might have been her favorite.
We make pretty much everything in-house with the exception of the meat for the market board. All of our pastas are made by hand everyday. We also completely overhauled our dessert menu and we are now making everything but the gelato in-house.
We will still do the $10 Mangia Monday deal. It’s a fun way to get people interested in the kinds of pastas we serve, and for the kitchen staff to be creative with new pastas each week. We are running some other specials during the week as well. We just started doing a cicchetti bar, which is Italian tapas from Venice. We are offering that free to our bar guests, along with drink specials, every night from 5-6pm.
We are in the process of redoing our brunch menu which we will offer on Saturdays and Sundays. Also our weekly cicchetti bar I mentioned will be fun and certainly unique to the area.
We bring authentic flavors and classic dishes with a twist and a little modernization. We also make all pastas by hand every day which definitely sets us apart. We have worked hard to create new drinks, too, and we think we have a pretty unique bar setup with 20 seats. Of course, for about 3 seasons of the year we’ve got beautiful patio seating and often roll up the garage doors for a unique dining experience.
It’s pretty cool to be able to roll up the garage doors and let our guests inside also experience a little al fresco dining. We try and open them soon as we can. As soon as the weather breaks or, hopefully, by the end of March at the latest.
Make a reservation on Mercato’s website scroll to the bottom of the page or by calling 502.690.3200. They’re conveniently located at 10640 Meeting Street in Norton Commons.