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IL Mercato - Downtown Halifax location

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Just wondering how good this restaurant is, because I have heard mixed things (about this location especially).

If you have eaten here, what would you recommend I order? (I like everything! LoL)

I've heard the food is great (especially the pasta-dishes), but what is the atmosphere like?

Thanks for any info :)

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  1. The decor is nice but be warned the restaurant is very noisy and a quiet conversation is almost impossible when packed. The last time we went there the pasta was not very good at all and the antipasto was rather aged. Too bad as it was once a very good place for pasta when located on the other side of Spring Garden Road.

    chilibeanpaste

    1 Reply
    1. re: chilibeanpaste

      It is a bit noisy, but I don't expect quiet dining in a restaurant with brown paper table coverings. Not a criticism - I've enjoyed almost everything (except for an appetizer that had smoked salmon once) that I've had there, and find it is a good place to go for a casual relaxed meal.

      Save the quiet meals for a place that's a bit more upscale.

    2. Service is good, pricing is reasonable, pizza is excellent, salads are good.

      Yes, the noise level is high, but it's not what I would call an intimate restaurant. Overall, this is a decent, close-in, downtown, riverfront, upper-casual Italian restaurant.

      1. As others have said, the atmosphere is usually bustling and somewhat noisy. It is a bistro, not a fine dining place, though the food is very good.

        Recommendations: for appetizers I like the risotto cakes, the cream of wild mushroom soup (rich though), and interestingly for me, the shredded cabbage salad. I think the best pasta is the roasted chicken ravioli. I can't say I've ever tried the mains.

        1. to add to what the others say (and agree) it is very noisy, watch your heels on their slippy floor and the roasted chicken ravioli is lovely! I have also had some mains there - the pork tenderloin was pretty good! For a little more money, you could head up to daMaurizio and get some really amazing pasta.

          1. My boyfriend and I went there today. I wouldn't recommend it. The atmosphere is mediocre and the pasta is boring. We had the tagliatelle and the ravioli. There was just nothing to the tagliatelle. When you order a pasta that lists just two or three ingredients, you expect the dish to have some standout, fresh simple ingredients with a clean flavor. Instead, it tasted like some microwave spaghetti. The ravioli was decent, but it was a very small portion and was not rich enough to justify such a small amount. Also, the menu listed the ravioli as having 'wild mushrooms,' and it actually came with button mushrooms. I think this last point speaks to the general problem with the place--it fancies itself an upscale place, but it falls flat and offers nothing special. Our bill cost $50 for two pastas and an escargot ap (the escargot came with just a few snails dumped in some tomato-y mixed vegetable slop on a piece of toasted bread). This restaurant just isn't worth anyone's time. I'd stick to Bicycle Thief!

            2 Replies
            1. re: annalimey

              I love the ravioli! The serving is quite small, but I find it so rich that it is enough.

              1. re: CanadaGirl

                I'd agree the chicken/mushroom ravioli is incredible!
                I don't go often, but do find the food here to be very consistent - if you have your favourite dishes, they will be the same if you go a year later, which is kind of comforting.
                I'd agree the noise level is too high when the place is packed, but when it's not packed the design allows sound to travel - I've been there for lunch when it is not busy, I could clearly hear a conversation from a couple at the other side of the room because of the acoustics. But, if they have redecorated a bit, maybe that has changed.

            2. I have to completely disagree with @annalimey. Mediocre atmosphere? Are you kidding? Especially since they transformed the space a few months ago with amazing mini black mosaic tile, huge colourful photos of Italy in black frames hung everywhere and those amazing candelabra-style chandeliers? The place is a beautiful, colourful place that feels ALIVE the second you walk in. With the entire restaurant group's reputation for extremely high standards (they also own The Bicycle Thief and Ristorante a Mano), I would bet $100 that the snails are not 'dumped' on a plate as annalimey suggests. Of course they are known for their Wild Mushroom Ravioli - it's been on their menu since they opened in 1994 (and by the way, wild mushrooms are inside the stuffing of the Ravioli along with roasted chicken, ricotta and Cambozola - the sauce is a to-die-for creamy demi-style brown sauce, and they use button and criminis to finish the dish) but there are so many other wonderful dishes on their menu. My stand-out favourite is the Pork Tenderloin. Pork tenderloin wrapped in Pancetta, pan-seared and served with sherry-cream sauce and whole cloves of roasted garlic. Anyone that loves food and wine (they have an amazing selection of by-the-glass wines that you'll be hard pressed to find in other restaurants in the city) should not miss il Mercato. You may have to wait for a table but it's totally worth it - good value for your money here at a fine family-run Italian Trattoria. I would suggest @annalimey go back to Moxie's where I'm sure she'd feel she receives better bang for her buck.

              2 Replies
              1. re: amomangiare

                Let;'s put this into perspective ladies, Il Mercato is not a 'quaint' family run Trattoria. It is a good restarant run by a someone who has been in the industry for many years and knows what they are doing to mae a buck in the industry. It is not a rock your culinary world kind of place and if you think it is, you need to get out of Halfax.more often. It is a solid 6 out of 10 and apeals to the dating university croud, because of the price point hence the noise and foolishness. If you have to eat only one meal to eat in Halfax, there are several better places with much better chefs, but if you are looking for a fun night out that won't break your bank, its not a bad choice.

                1. re: emmyboo

                  Hear hear Emmyboo! Very well said!