Pizzeria Via Mercanti (Elm St.)
Pizzeria Via Mercanti, the popular Neapolitan pizzeria in Kensington Market, has expanded less than 2 km east of the original. Now open in the heart of the hospital district at 87 Elm street, fans can now enjoy their popular pies in Mercanti's sprawling new space.
Pizzeria Via Mercanti is the first occupant on the ground floor of a recently restored 19th century heritage building owned by the YWCA of Toronto. The restaurant has over 2,000 square feet of dining space, split between a bar and two large dining rooms. We were nearly the only ones in for a Saturday lunch and were seated at a large table in the second dining room. The interior is bright and decorated a basic and rustic style, much like the original, complete with two original 165-year-old exposed brick walls flanking our table.
Most in our group are big fans of the Pizzeria Via Mercanti in Kensington Market, and we're curious to see if they can recreate some of our favourites.
First up was an order of piping hot Bocconcini di Pizza ($1.50 each). Three or four bites of pizza crust are stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta, soppressata, and prosciutto. The bocconcini are baked just long enough to have a slight crunch on the charred exterior and a filling that melts in your mouth. These are an adult version of the still-frozen-in-the-middle Pizza Pockets I grew up eating.
Next came the Olive Marinata ($5), a warm mixed olive platter served with a diced roasted red peppers and shallots. Despite a table of five, we couldn't come close to finishing this massive portion of salty olives.
The Rapini ($9) was drenched and cooked in a heavy amount of olive oil and garlic. Also available with sausage (add $4), this hearty serving of greens is delicious and sized to share.
The first pie out was their Margherita ($10, lead photo), a Neapolitan staple and a solid indicator of a pizzeria's quality. The light sauce is balanced well with the chewy mozzarella and baked-in basil leaves. The mild flavours were given an extra kick by their homemade chili oil (which they have for sale at either location).
We also had the Crudo e Rucola, an olive oil base (no tomato sauce), with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, brimming with fresh arugula and topped with a thin cut prosciutto ($14.50).
The Napoletana is for the salt lover, with a tomato sauce base and topped with black olives, cherry tomatoes, anchovies and oregano leaves ($12) -- we added mozzarella to half for an extra $2.50. With or without the cheese, this pizza hit all the salty and savoury notes I wanted it to, and would be a great choice any anchovy lover out there. Sorry Ninja Turtles.
Pizzeria Via Mercanti acquired a liquor license just after our visit, so I can't comment on the wine and beer options, though the original location serves as a good indicator here. As for the food, it maintains the great quality many have come to love from the original. Now in a larger space and new location, those looking to get their pizza fix will likely have shorter wait times -- at least until the new joint catches on.
Open 11am-10pm Sunday - Thursday and until 11pm on Friday and Saturday.
Photos by Marni Wolf