Lygon St in Carlton is a Melbourne institution. Locals and visitors alike flock to the famous strip to shop, socialise and more importantly, eat and drink their fill. In all my 100+ visits to Melbourne, I have only dined in Lygon St once before and it wasn’t the best to be honest. It was about 5 years ago and The Co-Conspirator and I just kinda wandered aimlessly around looking at gazillions of menus and settled on one when we got too hungry to keep looking. This time around I knew I could do better. I have a few friends down south and I am not adverse to soliciting recommendations but in true form we bypassed all those (sorry guys!) and settled on Mercadante Wood Fired Pizzeria after being wowed by the extensive menu which featured all our favourites. Read on for all the details …
Mercadante Wood Fired Pizzeria Overview
Mercadante Wood Fired Pizzeria is about a 20 minute drive north of where we stayed at the Vibe Savoy Hotel in Melbourne’s CBD. We chose to hire a car from Airport Rentals while we were in town, which made getting there a breeze, but parking was a little tricky to find. We arrived right on 7pm on a rainy Friday night which was also a public holiday and the place was bursting at the seams. We didn’t have a booking but managed to grab the very last free table. Yay! We chose to sit inside given it was Melbourne. In September. There were a few brave souls who were dining alfresco but on this very frigid night the portable heaters would have had their work cut out for them. The compact interior is tightly packed with tables to take advantage of every square inch of space. Mercadante doesn’t bother with unnecessary frills and tables are covered with crisp white paper with numbers scrawled directly on them. The minimalist interior and lack of soft furnishings means it can get loud! We were surrounded by a couple of large groups and it felt akin to being in the living room of a very large Italian family all vying for Mama’s attention. The energy and enthusiasm were infectious but it’s probably not the best place for a quiet date.
Despite the busy evening the staff were efficient and attentive. The clientele seemed to be largely regulars and many were greeted by name on arrival. Our drink order was taken quickly and arrived promptly. My request for fresh parmesan rather than the bottled stuff on the table was fulfilled with no fuss. The only issue that I can call out is that while they did have pepper shakers on each table they only have two grinders to service the whole restaurant. The first was broken and the second was empty after a few twists. The waitress said she didn’t have time to refill it as they were very busy. I know it’s a small thing but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed as nothing compliments creamy pasta better than lashings of cracked black pepper and the powdery stuff on the table is simply no substitute.
Mercadante Wood Fired Pizzeria Melbourne has one of the largest menus I have ever seen and it was tough to decide. I recommend ordering something to nibble as you ponder your choices. Start by looking through the 33 pizzas and eight calzones on offer. If none of those suit your taste, do like The Hubs and customise one. If you are not feeling a pizza, peruse the pasta selection. All your favourites are offered mix and match style with seven pastas and 14 sauces to combine any way you like. In addition, there are a further 10 specialty pastas and five risotto varieties for the taking. A selection of schnitzels, seafood and steaks round out the options. A small dessert menu is available if you have any room left and judging by the amount of Nutella jars stacked behind the counter, the Sfilatino (chocolate pizza below) is popular. We simply couldn’t fit one in this time, but I would love to have tasted just a mouthful!
You can’t eat Italian without starting with garlic bread and Mercadante’s version featuring four pieces of traditional thick cut bread diagonally sliced and slathered in butter, herbs and of course garlic did not disappoint (title photo). The edges were a little dry so I gravitated straight to the good bits in the middle much to The Hubs’ dismay. I had intended to save a slice to mop up my pasta sauce but that didn’t happen!
I love the mix and match pasta concept at Mercadante Wood Fired Pizzeria. I chose the papardelle with carbonara (calories be damned!) in an entrée size. I think every Italian restaurant should adopt this versatile approach as I invariably ask for a change-up otherwise given the exact combination I crave is never listed. My pasta was al dente perfection and the creamy sauce was the ideal partner. I added the last bit of cracked black pepper in the grinder, chili flakes and fresh Parmesan which complimented it beautifully. The entrée size was more than generous and I was still not able to finish everything on my plate. An elderly Italian gentleman at my elbow was enjoying his gnocchi with relish and I got a glimpse of the larger size which looked like it would feed a family of four with ease!
The Hubs settled on a Vibo Valentia pizza (#19) and added prosciutto to the tomato, mozzarella, chicken, capsicum, chilli, olives, mushrooms, garlic and basil already included. The chicken was all breast meat which delighted as I have no time for dark meat! I did have a little sample after I scraped off the mushrooms and olives and while not what I would have picked, it was perfectly pleasant and The Hubs thoroughly enjoyed his creation.
We loved Mercadante Wood Fired Pizzeria. The atmosphere was welcoming, the food was on pointe and represented excellent value. I will most definitely make more of an effort to get out of the CBD and return next time I am down. Maybe I’ll slip the main and just have a chocolate pizza 🙂 If you are thinking of a trip to Melbourne check out all my tips on booking a bargain flight.
Location: 123 Lygon St Carlton VIC 3053 Australia
Opening Hours: Sun, Wed & Thur 11.45am – 10pm Fri & Sat 11.45am – Midnight. Closed Mon & Tues.
Average Cost: We paid $65 for a shared entrée, an entrée pasta and a small pizza with a beer and wine each which included the 10% public holiday surcharge.
What’s your favourite place to eat on Lygon St? Have you been to Mercadante? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Until Next Time …
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I paid for my meal at Mercadante Wood Fired Pizzeria Melbourne in full and as always all opinions are my own.
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