One of my dear readers often complains that of all the fabulous places I eat, not one of them is near his house. This one is for you. Il Mercato Cafe is on Hallandale Beach Boulevard, in the Publix shopping center in Hallandale, FL. The restaurant has only been open for six months, but already they seem to be doing quite well and have a loyal following. It is easy to see why.
This is one of those places that you could go every week and never get bored. Well, I could, anyway. Why? For one thing, it is really cute. It is very casual and the menu changes regularly. You can order every pasta and main dish as either a half order or a full order. Many places do this with pasta, but here you can get a half order of chicken or eggplant parmesan. To me that just means I get to try more foods, so bring it on.
The appetizers are interesting, with things like a smoked chicken crepe with microgreens. The salads (all one size) are also impressive. The burrata salad has a huge piece of gooey, yummy cheese on top for a palatable $11. The pastas – all homemade – are outstanding. I had a tagliatelle with wild mushrooms in a sherry sauce with some cream. It did not suck. Mmmmm. My father had the gnocchi with braised short rib, which was also good. My mother had the Sicilian eggplant parmesan, which had eggplant that tastes like actual eggplant rather than just a big fried mess.
The wine list is well thought out and, considering the menu is rather small, the wine list is huge. It has all price ranges, from $22 on up. We had a Ciacci Picolomini Sangiovese IGT for $28 which was perfectly acceptable.
When we sat down and our waiter came over, we realized it was our old friend Kyle, formerly of Hi-Life in Fort Lauderdale. We were delighted to see him, and will be equally pleased when we see him again as I am sure we will be back soon.
If you need a good, low-key restaurant with excellent food, give Il Mercato a try. You will not be disappointed.