Cantina Mercatto sure to be a fixture on Wellington Street East

We recently had the pleasure of heading down to Financial District to check out Cantina Mercatto. It’s a stunning space designed by Studio Munge, featuring vaulted ceilings and dining nooks painted with beautiful frescoes. Chef Doug Neigel has included all of the Mercatto classics and evolved a selection of vegetable forward dishes and share plates for the cocktail hour crowd that pours in after work.

Cantina Mercatto dining room
Photos by Evan Jordan

We start with two antipasti, a seared tuna crostini with a gorgeous plating reminiscent of the verdant murals on the wall, and a rich prime striploin tartar dressed in frivolous shavings of black truffle. The cucumber, pear and pickled fennel are a fresh chorus to the fish and speak to the chef’s desire to focus on produce. Bar Manager Sean Smith matches the tuna with the tart snap of a Cantina Sour, a play on a gin sour spruced up with an hibiscus infused Lilet Blanc. It’s an elegant drink and looks as gorgeous as it tastes. The truffle laden tartar is scrumptious, a soon to be staple, great for sharing, and perfectly matched with a crisp, clean Wellington Martini, which glows with the cherry sweetness of Luxurado Maraschino.

Cantina Mercatto tuna
Cantina Mercatto prime rib tartar

For a main, I have the hanger steak and fries with truffle crema and sip on a Blackbird Old Fashioned, which layers the earthy flavours of Amaro Montenegro with the citrus of blood orange bitters. The cocktail is a perfect way to slice through the rich veal jus and tongue prickling shisitos that accompany the medium rare steak. We also share a Margherita pizza, just to get our teeth into the bubbling black-edged crust and subtle flor di latte, and a Chittarra Alla Carbonara, a twist of pasta centred on a sunny yolk from Conestoga farms that creates a golden sauce. It’s a simple, but deftly cooked meal that leaves us hungry to return.

Cantina Mercatto meal
Steak, fries and pizza.
Cantina Mercatto sour
Cantina Mercatto carbonara

Even though it’s hard to turn away from the cocktail list, I look over the wine list while we are digesting. It’s organized by style rather than region and offers a breadth of incredible choices from around the globe, including a plethora by the glass. There’s something for everybody here, from the Spanish 20,000 Leguas, an airy orange made with white grapes fermented in their skins, to a date night wine like the Brunello de Montalcino from Tuscany.

Chef Cantina Mercatto
Chef Doug Neigel

Cantina Mercatto also has a brunch menu for those of you that live right downtown, or are stopping for an early bite before a matinee show down the street at the Sony Center or Scotiabank Arena. And when I ask, the duck meatballs and eggplant involtini both come recommended by the chef for our next visit. If our first lunch here is any indication, Cantina Mercatto will soon be a fixture on Wellington, catering to a bustling crowd of sophisticated diners for lunch and dinner, and putting smiles on the faces of casual drinkers sipping cocktails after they clock out.




About Evan Jordan 5 Articles
Evan A Jordan writes about restaurants, travel and cooking. Get in touch with him via social media.