Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for a good, no-frills, less-is-more pizza and pasta place. After having just traveled through Italy and the Mediterranean a few months prior, my boyfriend and I have continuously grown to appreciate and crave places like this: the kind of restaurant that takes priority in good, quality ingredients over what’s Instagrammable. If you find you’re in the same camp, rejoice with us. We can find all this and more in Carrboro’s Pizzeria Mercato.
Fitting in with the rest of mellow Carrboro, Pizzeria Mercato is situated in a little non-descript brick building. When you walk in, the humble Italian joint boasts nothing fancy in their interior, other than a fully operating espresso machine and a sizable brick-lined oven catching my eye. Frankly, I needed little more to be convinced to stay. But in case you were disappointed in the simplistic décor, just wait till your food is served. Mercato’s menu comprises fresh, local North Carolina ingredients (sourced from artisan growers and suppliers) that come together to create simple, but flavorful Italian dishes that will have you believing less really is more.
When we were led to our table, we dove right in to explore the menu. Good reviews from friends about their Neopolitan-inspired pizzas were what led us in here, so we knew we’d order a pie. The pizza menu offered something for everyone. However, rather than offering pies loaded with toppings, most had no more than three or four ingredients. The Salami (tomato, Fior di Latte, Salami Calabrese, red onion, and spicy honey) stood out to us, but so did the Salsiccia pie, so we deferred to our server for her recommendation. Both were highly recommended by her, but we ultimately went with the Salsiccia, a white pizza-esque pie at $15.50. The Salsiccia had panna (cream), Fior di Latte (mozzarella), fennel sausage, scallion, and red onion.
The pizza base was warm panna and mozzarella, which came together as a fragrant, silky mixture of cream, cheese, and oil to create an umami euphoria. The delicately crumbled sausage provided the right amount of saltiness balanced by a hint of sweetness from the fennel. The diced scallions added a savory and herby boost. Finally, the red onions tied it together to add a tinge of caramelized sweetness. Not to mention, the crust was delicious: thin, crisp, and fragrant. Our server brought out Calabrian chili oil and chili flakes for the pizza, which I highly recommend for a light, yet smoky kick.
And for the sake of reminiscing about all the pasta we had in Italy, we ordered some of that, too. We went with the Tagliatelle, as it’s one of our favorite types of pasta. Verdict: it did not disappoint, especially for $12.50. Pork ragu, parmesan, and basil. That was it. And that’s all it needed. To be frank, we found the Salsiccia pizza to be so good, it casted a shadow over the tagliatelle. But that being said, it was still outstanding. Sometimes a restaurant’s pasta isn’t just perfectly al dente, it also has a different bite to it that tells you it’s quality, housemade pasta—that was definitely on display through this dish. The well-crafted tagliatelle was topped with warming pork ragu. The ragu was velvety, carrying small chunks of sweet and tart tomato. Freshly torn basil on top was also a nice herby complement. Overall, the flavor was all there, but it didn’t have the different dimensions of flavor the pizza did (and this is coming from a pasta lover).
By the time we finished licking the plates clean of every last bit of sauce, we were ready for a shot of espresso. Highly recommend! This really rounded out a lovely Italian experience. The espresso was dark and robust, but had a subtly sweet, almost syrupy, finish.
Mercato re-taught us the importance of quality over quantity. There wasn’t much to either dish we tried in the sense of toppings or ingredients, but when quality ingredients are prioritized, they really speak for themselves. I already can’t wait to go back for that Salami pie and, really, everything else the menu offers.
408 W Weaver St
Carrboro, NC 27510
Joanne Wu is an avid foodie and can often be found coffee shop hopping around the Triangle. Coming from a rural Taiwanese background, she loves all things scratch-made in the kitchen and locally sourced. When she’s not dining her way through the Triangle, politics is her other passion. Joanne currently works in downtown Raleigh in State government. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @joannewuu.