Mercato di Vetro
9077 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90210
Dining date: 10/27/11
Mercato di Vetro is sbe group’s (The Bazaar, Katsuya, Cleo) latest restaurant venture, an Italian concept in WeHo which opened earlier this month. The concept is an extensive menu of Italian small plates split into antipasti, salads, wood oven, meat, fish, raw, and pasta – all within $17.
Expectantly for an sbe restaurant, it’s a nice looking place. I’m always a little skeptical about these establishments – does the emphasis on creating a trendy, loungey atmosphere overshadow the food? Many times it does. But sometimes, a good balance is found that can cater to the pre-club crowd, as well as those that just want some seriously good grub. Early reviews on Yelp have been very strong with 4.5/5 stars – sounds promising enough.
Arancini pistachio, peas, fontina
We started with some arancini, Italian rice balls. I thought these were pretty well done, the rice still had some texture (wasn’t mushy) and there was a nice sort of herbal flavor present too. Liked the delicate, crispy exterior.
Squash Blossoms stuffed with ricotta, oven-roasted tomato
Solid squash blossoms, but I would’ve preferred a lighter batter. There was too much of a textural overload, overshadowing the tender squash blossom. The marinara sauce was good.
Chicken Liver Crostini fig jam, pickled shallots, arugula
One of the better dishes of the evening, the liver was very smooth with the characteristic minerality coming through. I thought it was well-balanced by the fig jam, which added a welcome sweetness to complement the liver.
Buratta & Roasted Grapes brown butter, rosemary, pine nuts
Very simple, but another good one. The burrata was good and really went well with the grapes, which were slightly roasted to bring out the natural sugars. A little herbal greens added some depth of flavor, while pine nuts added some texture.
Hen of Woods aïoli, parmesan
Basically just roasted mushrooms, I thought these were excellent. A crusty char was achieved on the mushrooms, which really brought out the earthy flavors. I don’t think it even needed the aioli or parmesan, but they helped to add body and richness to each bite.
Tuna Tartare mustard, oven-roasted tomato, crostini
Pretty good as tuna tartare goes, I thought the tomatoes and some citrus flavor really brightened the flavors up.
Meatballs veal & beef, fontina
Solid meatballs. Nothing special really, but it was fun to break them open and have the cheese pour out.
Branzino curried cauliflower, yogurt, cilantro
The branzino was cooked well, yielding a crispy skin and moist flesh. I’m not sure I quite got the curried cauliflower flavor, and I thought something in here was a little overly sweet.
Lamb Bolognese pappardelle, ricotta, niçoise olives
This was the lone pasta we ate, and I found it disappointing. The pasta was slightly overcooked, not having quite the chew I was looking for. The flavors of the bolognese were somewhat muted too.
Kale Pizza pecorino romano
I was a little concerned this pizza would have an overwhelming grassy, vegetable flavor. Wasn’t the case here as the kale was pretty tasty; the caramelized, blackened ends added a sort of sweetness and smokiness. However, I thought it was a little heavy-handed with the salt, and parts of the crust weren’t quite as crispy as hoped.
Bombolini blood orange
Both desserts were pretty solid, though I may have expected a little more creativity at $10 apiece. For example, the bombolini’s (donut holes) freshly fried and glazed dough is going to be delicious, but I thought more of a sauce (or at least ice cream) was in order. I didn’t get too much of the blood orange flavor.
The food at Mercato di Vetro was solid, and the meal as a whole was enjoyable. Sure, the cuisine at Mercato di Vetro isn’t particularly innovative or creative, but that isn’t its niche. Rather, it sets out to present easily accessible Italian food, and it does that. It’s definitely a viable option in West Hollywood, but I wouldn’t call it a destination restaurant.