il Mercato Social Kitchen
Those who have been fortunate enough to travel to Italy will be transported back the moment they take their first bite. For those who have never been, this West Kelowna gem is as close as they’re going to get while remaining on this side of the pond.
Gone is the “grotto feel” and checkered table cloths of traditional Italian restaurants. The vibe at il Mercato is modern with lots of natural light, clean lines and warm wood. Every detail from the dishes and glassware to the cutlery is
elegant and functional. An open kitchen with a large pizza oven dominates the entry area and the wall of wine at the back of the restaurant beckons people to come in and enjoy.
We were delighted to see so many gluten-free options on the menu as this can be a real problem for us when visiting an Italian restaurant. To start, we enjoyed meatballs in a tomato sauce with ricotta and pecorino romano cheese. The meatballs
had a lovely texture and the tomato acidity of the sauce complemented the cheese perfectly. We also enjoyed a Caesar salad (sans croutons). Everything in the restaurant is made on site and the salad dressing flavour was a robust, zingy “wow” for us both.
For mains, my hubby had a gluten-free seafood pasta. The clams, jumbo shrimp, calamari and mussels were perfectly cooked and he has never had a gluten-free pasta that tasted (and felt) so much like traditional wheat pasta. The white wine cream sauce
was flavourful but delicate so we could really taste the seafood which was fresh and wonderful. Hands down, this was the best pasta dish we have ever had in Kelowna and will definitely order it again.
Since I am not gluten intolerant, I had to try the dish they are best known for - their pizza. Il Mercato uses Italian flour in the finest grind and the crust was honestly as good as anything I ate in Italy. Topped with prosciutto, mascarpone cheese,
tomato sauce, arugula and a balsamic drizzle, I could NOT stop eating it! Even after I was full, I didn’t want to stop eating it…. I’m still thinking about it a week later!
We were both full but had to try the Torta Caprese, a dense chocolate almond flour cake with a berry coulis. It was tasty with a nice texture and so nice to have a GF option for dessert that wasn’t just ice cream.
We plan to return for the Spring Prix Fix Four Course meal that includes antipasto, main and dessert plus fresh baked focaccia loaf (for gluten fans) attractively priced at $35.00.
Taking a moment to speak with owner Trevor Jones, we learned a little history. The restaurant opened in September, 2019 and enjoyed completely full seatings with wait lists every night until COVID hit. Happily, the community rallied
behind the restaurant and according to Jones “take-out kept us alive from March to June”. In an effort to encourage locals to order from them, 500 coupons for $10.00 off were printed and one was put in every take-out order. “We only got three
coupons back in the months we offered them,” smiles Jones, “everyone said, ‘just keep the money, we want your food five years from now’, it was really touching how much our customers wanted to help us survive.”
Fans will be delighted to hear that Jones has a second restaurant in process – The Landing Kitchen and Bar is slated to open on Mother’s Day weekend 2021 and will be located at The Cove. The Landing will feature “comfort elevated” food and we look forward to checking it out soon.
We were blown away by il Mercato and are so happy to have found Italy so close to home
Kim Rhindress has been writing in the Okanagan since 2011. You may have read her features in “Wine Trails Magazine”, her “Cultural Corner” articles in Okanagan Life Magazine or her “Kim’s Flick Picks” movie reviews on Castanet.
When her husband was diagnosed as gluten sensitive in 2014, they were forced to change the way they ate and where they could eat. Finding gluten-free food when dining out has been an adventure and is the focus
for her reviews as more and more people find they cannot safely eat in some restaurants.
Kim is a Level 6 Local Guide on Google with more than 100 restaurant reviews.
il Mercato Social Kitchen
GF: 5 Stars (out of 5)
Regular Restaurant Rating: 5 Stars