Whenever we make the trek from the burbs into the city we normally take Victoria Rd and I’d always been curious about the massive space in Gladesville that had been under construction since Feb. Turns out it’s Mercato e Cucina (297 Victoria Rd, Gladesville), your one stop shop for all your Italian food needs. Run by brother and sister team Vanessa and Robert Martin (previously from Il Piave in Rozelle), this place is seriously a feast for the senses. They’ve only been open for about 5 weeks now but it has been packed every time I have visited!
There’s free undercover parking so take the lift up and be greeted by the sexiest display of fruit and veg.
There’s a butcher that breaks down all the meats onsite.
And a deli section filled with meaty goodness and all the olives of the rainbow. (So bright, so vivid!)
On my first visit the restaurant had closed their kitchen between the breakfast and lunch period (11am-12pm) though drinks and pastries could be ordered and consumed at the tables. Instead we browse the take-home fridge filled with containers of soups, vacuum sealed packets of smoked fish, marinated cuts of meat and even packets of truffle mash. We bypass the rabbit lasagne and instead choose the truffle, prosciutto and mixed mushroom lasagne. It is rich, almost ridiculously so with all the mushrooms in the universe, ribbons of prosciutto and handfuls of grated cheese all blanketed in a creamy sauce with a dose of truffle oil. Not for the faint hearted!
On my second visit with Richard we rocked up on a weekday, deliberately later in the day to avoid the lunch rush and immediately zero in on the wood fired pizza selection. Out of the 19 pizzas listed, 3 are pizza biancas (ie a ‘white base’ of olive oil, herbs and salt). I have a deep love for pizza bianca as generally I find tomato sauce based pizzas overwhelm the flavour of the toppings and so the La Campagnia ($23) pizza bianca with sauteed mixed mushroom, truffle and prosciutto crudo was immediately ordered.
Upskirt shot! This pizza may be my new favourite pizza in Sydney. The pizza had a blistered, puffy edged crust and a soft but satisfyingly chewy interior. A jumble of juicy mushrooms, shavings of salty prosciutto crudo, a dash of truffle oil and just the right amount of cheese? Pizza perfection.
The Pate ($17.50) is pretty as a picture, a giant quenelle of duck, chicken & mascarpone pate with honey & chilli soaked apricots, a pickled onion salad, baby cornichons and a pile of bread sticks and flatbread. The pate is a touch on the gamey side and with a slightly grainy mouthfeel but Richard demolishes it with ease.
We couldn’t resist also ordering the White mushroom risotto with burnt butter & truffled pecorino ($28.50) which was pretty damn tasty. Plump grains with just enough bite, a whole field of mushrooms and shavings of seriously aromatic truffle pecorino.
A third visit with the boy for breakfast who of course picks the one menu item that he has no idea what it is- Grilled Cotechino ($14) which turns out to be an Italian charcuterie product, similar to salami and is so freaking awesome with the tangy tomato relish. The poached egg is a little on the solid non-gooey side but the buttery polenta potato hash more than makes up for it.
I had opted for the Homemade crumpets ($16.50) which comes with whipped ricotta, a drizzle of honey and caramelised banana. Unfortunately the crumpets were dense and stodgy and no amount of ricotta slathered on top could save them. Sadness. Service can be a bit hit and miss, some waiters were obviously new (though trying very hard!) and food seemed to take longer at breakfast than my visit at lunch but I think it’s all in the timing and hey they’re still new.
I’m not sure what’s on the dessert menu at the restaurant because both times I’ve detoured via the bakery which bakes all the bread and pastries in house and bought something purdy to take home.
The Lychee, Rose and Raspberry Macaron ($8) caught my eye because well, it’s pink. Normally I stay away from any Ispahan creations but I’ve been craving raspberries and was so relieved that I did because it was deeeelicious! The macaron shells were crisp enough to be picked up but soft enough to meld with the filling. Thumbs up.
I wasn’t as keen on the Black Forest ($7.50), while I loved the chocolate macaron, the cherry garnish and the majority of the dark chocolate layers, the last 2 layer kinda had a gelatiney bounce in the cream?
The Hazelnut Cake ($7) was a massive winner though, tasting just like a Ferrero Rocher with a crunchy daquiose layer and smooth hazelnut cream! Hands down a winner for me and I would totally love a massive cake of this!
Aaaaand grabbed a wedge or two of some Stilton, Truffle Pecorino, and Prosciutto for a late night snack. Loved the guys behind the deli, they were super patient and had heaps of suggestions for what to add to our cheese platter we were creating and snuck us some slivers to try before we committed to buying.
I’m glad Mercato e Cucina isn’t too far from where we live as it means easy access to great pizzas and cheeses!