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Mario's Mercato Italiano

Ignoring comfort, it’s a bargain

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Sandwiched for the last two years between University Place Indochine and a women’s fitness center, Mario’s Mercato Italiano offers surprisingly large portioned menu items and moderately low prices. Crab cakes boasting “not a lot of filler” for $11.00, chicken marsala and picata for $7.99 filled out the plate nicely. Flavors were subtle and simple. Caesar salad dressing was visible to the eye on crisp romaine, but disappointingly could not be detected by taste buds. Fresh ingredient filled sandwiches were satisfying. Smoked salmon chowder was delicious, though potatoes were a bit on the mushy side. Prices average $4 to $8 (even for entrees).

For wines — four to five reds and whites by the glass are offered via stand-up table tent menus: sangiovese, zenato valpolicella, and argiolas perdera run $4.49 to $5.99. Rows of wine by the bottle are available for purchase at varying retail prices. Add a $6 corking fee, and you can drink that bottle with your meal. For beverages — standard espresso, coffees, juices and Italian sodas run $1.50 to $4.50. Mammoth dessert selection pulled me in like a space ship tractor beam. Traditional and specialty cakes and pies, cookies to cherry crostada, cheese cake, adorable mini pineapple upside-down cakes and more than eight different types of gelato, most everything is imported from Italy.

Family owned Bindi supplies desserts to some very elite customers across the globe and at Mario’s. Bindi is responsible for Kabachie (a layer cake to die for) consisting of lusciously moist chocolate cake base, a layer of light chocolate cream with an oh-so-slight hint of coffee flavor and a crown of hazelnuts, chocolate chips and gooey chocolate whipped together in fluffed bevels held in place by a thicker molded chocolate shell top ($3.99 a slice). Fantastic with a glass of zenato valpolicella ($4.49). I sure do love chocolate and red wine. Could have done without the incessant beeping of the microwave behind the counter though. With the exception of a non-matching heavy, dark wood six-person table, the spindly tables and uncomfortable wood chairs seemed more suited to an outdoor patio than indoor permanent dining. Peruse the cold case of pre-made salads, pastas, sauces and olives before leaving. While lacking in comfort and ambience, Mario’s is a bargain.

[Mario’s Mercato Italiano, 2049 Mildred St. W., Tacoma, 253.566.6108]

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