Cantina Mercatto the most spacious offshoot of the Mercatto empire. Cantina translates to "cellar," the idea here being that aspects of the cellar are brought out into the open.
Open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, Cantina is also home to some exclusive menu items not available at other Mercatto locations.
Design by Studio Munge and wallpaper art by Candice Kaye follow the thread of the vineyard theme whimsically. The 5,300-square-foot, 200-seat space encompasses low seating, high tables adjacent to an open kitchen, a bar area, a low-ceilinged grotto-like space and a 32-seat private dining mezzanine.
Chitarra alla carbonara ($17) doesn't mess with perfection, starchy, full-bodied dry pasta imported from Italy providing a solid backdrop for delicate curls of sharp pecorino, a strong hit of black pepper, big chunks of Niagara pancetta, and a golden-orange Conestoga Farms yolk that's dense, jiggly and rich.
An albacore tuna salad is priced at $16 for a small heap of cucumber, pear and pickled fennel topped with two Fred's Bread sourdough crostini fried with the tuna, all plated on a drizzle of bottarga crema. Ocean Wise albacore is luscious, and every element feels fresh and devourable. This is one of the dishes that's only available here.
A short rib and brisket burger ($22) is a classic Mercatto holdover and a great Toronto restaurant burger. As the name suggests, it's a loose 50/50 house grind of short rib and brisket on eggy, buttery Fred's Bread brioche with a smear of oregano pesto.
That's topped with smoked scamorza and a spicy chunky bomba, served with house triple cooked fries, a truffle crema, and a family recipe three week natural ferment pickle.
An 8 oz prime striploin ($36) is the big ticket item here, a Kansas City cut of Canadian prime beef that's essentially a traditional New York strip cut in half, so it's nice and thick but still allows for a nice cook.
Its served with a divine truffle potato gratin and garlicky sauteed spinach, in a pool of sweet and savoury au jus.
A prosciutto and egg pizza ($17) is on the brunch menu along with the albacore and burger. It's topped with potato, caramelized onion, rosemary, fior de latte, and of course thin-sliced prosciutto and Conestoga eggs.
Brunch or lunch here would be nicely complemented by a fizzy, slightly creamy bellini ($12). Prosecco and Village Juicery white peach puree are combined simply the way they would have been at the bar where the cocktail was invented, Harry's in Venice.
A Cantina Sour ($14) combines the elements of a negroni and a sour with gin, Campari, hibiscus-infused Lillet Blanc, and an egg white cap.
Cantina Mercatto also boasts a 50-seat patio in warm weather.