Strolling along Bloor Street, west of Bedford Street, there have been subtle changes to this area of the Annex. But one of the mainstay addresses is still happily the same: the elegant Bar Mercurio.
This Italian eatery opened 17 years ago, welcoming guests to savour Italian cuisine in a classically styled environment that could easily have been open in the 1950s as much as 2014 – a curved bar up front with a wall of wine bottles and an open kitchen facing the tables of the long, narrow dining room.
Contemporary style includes sleek tile, wood chairs and stools, stainless steel and a pop of green on the banquette seating, but its the devotion to fresh ingredients and attentive service that is nothing new here.
As an established restaurant, Bar Mercurio has been watching from afar as Italian cuisine has been reinterpreted, reinvented and fused with other flavours by up and coming chefs in the city’s popular dining districts of Queen West and King Street.
Owner Giuseppe Mercurio decided he wanted to issue a challenge to new diners to come taste his pizza – one that may seem new to foodies who think thin crust is the only authentic version. True to the southern Italian roots of the family, the Bar Mercurio version is a slightly thicker crust, not too much sauce or cheese and minimal toppings. No overloaded deep dish or skinny crust here – it’s a delicate balance of ingredients to tantalize the tastebuds.
Issuing the Love our Pizza or It’s Free Challenge (happening until August 9, 2014) isn’t about saying other types of pizza are bad, wrong or tasteless. Mercurio wants pizza lovers to come taste his version and discover the Bar Mercurio balance, not fixating on one ingredient or a chef’s technique.
The classic Pizza Margarita, with pomodoro, mozzarella and fresh basil ($12) or the Pizza Rapini with the roasted tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and sautéed rapini ($20) are tasty examples of flavours which are very happy together.
Two decadent favourites to consider – Pizza Pistachio (pistachio pesto, buffola mozzarella, pecorino romano, fennel sausage, basil $20) or the Pizza Gamberi (pomodoro, mozzarella, shrimp, garlic, chili $19). Both are bit more complex, but certainly still follow the house rules of allowing the palate to taste every ingredient.
And for those who love the spice, ask for the house-made chili oil, another southern Italian specialty. Unlike the jars found on Chinatown restaurant tables, this harmonious version has fruity olive oil infused with the heat of red chilis. At Bar Mercurio, old school style is new once again.