Parma In Beijing
With a clutch of enviable gongs to its name (not least being hailed ‘arguably the best Italian restaurant in town’ by the New York Times), tiny hutong trattoria Mercante has quickly garnered enough culinary credo to keep its mere 8 tables packed all night, every night, with locals and visitors in search of simple, home-style Northern Italian fare.
From Emilia-Romagna native and first-time restaurateur Omar Maseroli, Mercante is a cosy affair, from the surrounds to the food: strategically placed lamps give the small space a warm glow; brick walls and hanging mirrors recreate a ‘friend’s living room’ vibe; service is welcoming and attentive; and pastas are lovingly handmade daily using nonna’s recipes. The menu is short and sweet, offering only what Maseroli knows and cooks best – pappardelle with duck or rabbit ragu, and traditional tortelli (ravioli-like dumplings) with various fillings, from leek and pistachio to potato and smoked pork belly. The fresh, housemade ricotta with celery is a local favourite, and the grilled organic beef fillet arrives atop a baked corn pie and onions. It wouldn’t be a real trattoria without wine, and Mercante sources extensively from Italy – all but one (a sparkling Cremant d’Alsace from France) of the white, red, and sparkling wines come from Maseroli’s home country. The taste of Parma in Beijing!