Rome’s historical centre is full of ancient treasures, but when it comes to lunchtime, it’s not always easy to find a rapid, tasty and stylish spot at the right price.
Located in Rome’s Largo Argentina – where Julius Caesar was assassinated, no less – smart new eatery Mercerie – High Street Food overlooks the impressive, subterranean archaeological site, right next to an iconic haberdashery store, minutes away from Rome’s Jewish ghetto.
Mercerie is also just a few metres from the historical triumvirate of Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori and the Pantheon, so it’s really in a great location for city visitors who have seen the sights and need a well-deserved break.
Mercerie – whose name means haberdashers, in homage to the fact that this was also a sewing store in the past – has been open for about a year, offering cocktails in a cute lounge and dinner from 17.30 in the evening until the small hours.
But as of this April, you can also visit Mercerie in the middle of the day, pausing for a gourmet lunch, which combines light and tasty dishes for every appetite, yet is aimed at the busy traveller or city centre worker who doesn’t want to take two hours out of their day.
The entire project is overseen by consulting chef Igles Corelli, but you’re in the incredibly safe hands of executive chef Viviana Marrocoli for this original and tasty lunch menu.
We started with a light cocktail (perfect for a midday treat). I had the violet spritz, with soda, violet liquor and prosecco – not too sweet and very refreshing ( €10). This was accompanied by perhaps the trademark of Mercerie’s smart new lunch options – the ‘lasagnette’.
These are baked street-food treats, combining sheets of pasta twisted around sumptuous fillings. From left, the cacio e pepe lasagnetta il stuffed with pecorino cheese sauce, five kinds of black pepper, encased in homemade fresh pasta sheets studded with cracked pepper. Absolutely delicious.
I also tried the nero di seppia lasagnetta (right), containing lightly whipped cod baccala, encased in black squid ink handmade pasta. This was incredibly tasty too. Two lasagnette cost €5, while four cost €8.50 – so make a perfect nibble to start your lunch (or even just to accompany a drink-and-dash cocktail).
Next, we tried these wonderful savoury ‘pralines’, another smart Mercerie invention. The Scoglio praline is filled with mussels, potato and lemon and rolled in breadcrumbs, thyme and pecorino. While the Ceci praline combines a rosemary and ginger-infused chickpea puree. Delicious! (Expect to pay €7.50 for four).
This cannolo di seppia – a bijoux squid roll – was dressed with goats cheese robiola, blanched spinach, lemon sauce and a rice cracker.
We also tried a seasonal artichoke, which – according to the menu – had been cooked three ways: ultrasound, fried, and sous vide. I love artichokes but I must admit I didn’t see the benefits of cooking it three times – it was both soft centred with crisp leaves, but felt a little overdone. It was served with anchovy mayo, candied garlic and rocket pesto.
Next up, we tried a couple of tasting portions from the ‘first course’ menu. These handmade tortelli were filled with whipped sea bass, thyme, ricotta, with a fresh seafood sauce. These were very good! Expect to pay around €10 for first course dishes.
The next dish was a spring risotto, styled as an asparagus carbonara, with local pecorino cheese and crispy pork cheek. Very tasty.
This tender pork rib, cooking in cocoa butter and coffee, was served with curly endive, anchovy oil and shrimp sauce. This proved a very successful combination of flavours – really good!
I didn’t have time to stick around for dessert this time, but expect moreish and inventive puddings such as ginger and chocolate crumble (starred for next time!)
All in all, the Mercerie experience was very impressive, and while the price point was above your average quick lunch, I thought it was a fair price for the quality. Gourmet salads are also available at around €15.
Highly recommended! And don’t forget to pop in during the evening, too, for a cocktail and more easy dining options.
Mercerie | 4/5, Via di S. Nicola de’ Cesarini | Roma | 0039 347 971 4949
Testaccina was a guest of Mercerie