Mercato in Red Hook, New York
Spending time in Rhinebeck, NY at my gardens has had its drawbacks and one of them has been the dearth of good local restaurants. I was going to Gigi’s with the regularity of a homing pigeon until some friends introduced me to Mercato in the town of Red Hook (birthplace, I hear, of Eleanor Roosevelt). I loved it the first time and went back last week and was equally charmed. Is it perfect? No, but charm doesn’t always have to be.
Mercato occupies a beautiful old building with big windows that wrap around the front. There is a great bar on one side of the restaurant which accommodates diners nicely, but I sat in the restaurant proper on my first visit and enjoyed it's excellent vibe and found the service just fine. Then too, as a neat freak, I appreciated the super clean kitchen which is open to the dining room and has sparkling pots and pans.
On my second visit we sat on the porch which is romantic if you don’t mind shockingly bad service. At one point I almost went to the kitchen to my fire up my own meal. It was comic. We asked to have our wine opened and the waiter came with glasses but no corkscrew. Everyone was served at different times and so forth. So, sit indoors if you are in a hurry because this place is short staffed.
The kitchen is manned by Francesco Buitoni who is the chef/co-owner. He’s busy running around in his shorts cooking, greeting customers, and sending out good vibes from his kitchen. On this last visit I had the soft shell crab appetizer on a bed of flageolet and braised cabbage. It was cooked to perfection and the braised cabbage and beans really complemented the soft shell crab. Francesco tries to use as many local and organic ingredients as he can which I appreciate. I can’t remember the name of the farm they got their broccoli rabe from but it was incredibly tender and full of flavor. When you start growing your own vegetables, you realize how bad most of the stuff from grocery stores is.
For an entrée I ordered roast chicken, but the waiter came back to tell me the oven just broke and there would be no roast chicken. Love That. Yeah, don’t want to have mine crudo, thanks. I just had to laugh. I ordered the tagliatelle with ragu instead. The pasta was cooked perfectly,
the sauce was kind of a basic 101 ragu, not a long simmered one, but it was tasty. No complaints. My friends had the pumpkin ravioli which was really good.
The wine list is very well edited but you can bring your own too. The last time I was there we had a bottle of the Soave from Pieropan which is one of my favorites. There were also many great whites and reds to choose from.
I’m going to be a regular at Mercato. I love the crowd, love the room, and the menu changes all the time. Most of all I love to be able to go somewhere local and get a good home cooked meal that’s cooked with love.
61 E. Market St.
Red Hook, NY