Mercato di Vetro is SBE’s West Hollywood entry into Italian and it’s food for pretty people. From the moment you enter the beautiful space this is more a wonderful scene than a serious restaurant, a place where Ladytron can be cranked up on the soundtrack and everyone looks marvelous as they nibble on the shared small plates and drink from the crafted libations menu.
That’s not to say that the food at MDV doesn’t have its moments, because it does. And the service is top notch. But this is more a great time out than a great restaurant. And there is nothing wrong with that.
The menu is divided into an antipasti bar (further divided into cured/cheeses/vegetables/crostini/snacks), salads, raw, wood oven, meat, fish and pasta. Given the small plates concept the prices are reflective, with no dish breaking the twenty dollar barrier. Of course, small plates add up quickly and the convivial vibe leads one to sample a cocktail or two so it’s not going to end up being an inexpensive night out.
Seated on the second floor from which you have a great view of the goings on, The Monster orders a martini and begins to dive into the menu.
The first offering is the tomato crostini with pesto, ricotta, basil, balsamic. The ricotta is spread too thick for this Monster’s liking and it overpowers the rest of the dish. Similarly, artichokes with lemon and rosemary are over-sauced and cauliflower with bagna cauda are too salty. Neither are horrible yet they don’t inspire huge amounts of confidence in what will be served next.
The squash blossoms suffer as the delicate blossoms are ruined by the heavy fried coating. All you really taste is the ricotta filling and the good marinara it is served with.
The branzino, served with curried cauliflower, yogurt and cilantro is the next course and comes at the recommendation of our waitress. Skewing more Morrocan in taste than Italian, it is the first standout dish of the evening. Those looking for traditional Italian branzino will perhaps be disappointed but keep an open mind and you will be pleased.
Pasta pescatore comes wrapped in cellophane. It is a gorgeous presentation and looks like you’re being given a present of seafood. Loaded with mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops, the pasta sauce needs “umph” according to Mamma Monster. She’s correct, the dish falls flat ultimately from not having much taste.
The margherita pizza has charred edges and a tangy sauce. It’s absolutely fine though it is meant to be consumed at the restaurant. The Monster took home a few slices and found it’s dreadful the next day.
For dessert we try the tiramisu. Yawn.
All in all Mercato di Vetro succeeds on its promise to entertain the senses with its pulsing music and beautiful eye candy but anyone going in looking for inspired Italian will probably leave a bit disappointed.
Why go? You just bought a killer new outfit.
Monster rating: 2½/5 Monsters
9077 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90210