2224 4th Street SW
Established in 1974, Mercato is an Italian market and restaurant located in the Mission district along 4th street in the SW. Bar counters surround the open kitchen with patrons socializing with staff and strangers alike creating a lively atmosphere. Separate tables as well as an outdoor patio are also available for a slightly more intimate experience. Upon arriving at the restaurant, I was quickly seated at the bar between a group of friends and a chatting couple. My spot, off to the right (or left depending how you look at it), offered a fantastic view of how the dishes are prepared. From the initial preparation of the ingredients to the final finishing touches, I watched the dishes move through the assembly line of cooks till it reached it's final destination: My mouth!
I had the feature pasta of the day. Linguine pasta with jalapeño and rock lobster topped with bread crumbs and roasted pine nuts. The most obvious difference between a rock lobster and a regular lobster is the lack of claws and two extremely long and thick antennas. All the ingredients are made fresh from the market next door. Despite the spicy jalapeño peppers, the lack of sauce brought out the sweet natural flavours of the rock lobster. To balance the flavours, a wedge of roasted lemon was served on the side. I thought it was better without the tartness of the lemon but that's a personal choice. Full and half size portions are available. I had the half size. It was enough to fill me up. I could have had more but I'm pretty sure a full size portion would have been too much. Assuming the full size is twice as large as the half size. Similarly priced as Olives, I would pick Mercato over Olives. There's slightly more variety on the menu, especially in the pasta section.
The couple sitting beside me had the Bistecca alla Fiorentina. I wish I had gotten that but it was so massive, I probably wouldn't have been able to finish it. I suppose I could have saved it for dinner... and probably lunch the next day. Definitely a cool place to check out. I would go back. I guess the problem with sitting at the bar is that you see all the other delicious foods everyone else is getting... Makes you want to order everything! Probably not the best idea if you make as little as I do.