Mercato has stemmed from a family owned business in 1972, when Imma and Mario Caporaso established a continental deli in Rostrevor. The new Mercato store run by son John, opened in 2005 and now aims to present local and Italian produce which is carefully sourced and selected for the public.
Yesterday the Adelaide Food Central were lucky enough to be invited to learn the sacred technique of making Passata di pomodoro or tomato sauce from Imma and Mario themselves. Passata day is a tradition Italian immigrants have brought to Australia and are still carrying on to this day. Families get together once a year to produce their year’s supply of tomato sauce. They buy the right tomatoes in bulk and go through the long process as a family to make this tomato puree to be used as a necessity in their cooking.
Upon arrival guests were handed aprons and name tags and were immediately told to get to work. There are a lot of processes to making Passata and everyone had the chance to have a go at every step. From hand washing, to cutting and peeling the tomatoes, everyone got their hands dirty. After the preparation of the tomatoes they were blanched and either prepared in jars for Pelati, or run through the tomato press for Passata. The aromas of fresh tomatoes surrounded us under the marquee and It truly felt like we were part of the Mercato family for the day.
The Passata was then poured into sterilised bottles and capped, which proved to be a fun but challenging exercise for all as everyone was keen to have a go. The bottles and jars were then boiled in water for half an hour and are normally left to cool overnight, however we took home one jar and one bottle while still warm. This Passata and Pelati typically lasts up to 3 years, however most Italian families will get together to make the Passata to last a year. It was a true delight to be able to take home what we had spent all day producing.
As well as making the sauce, a Passata day is not complete without a feast and we definitely got to experience this. We had a lovely mid morning snack or otherwise known as Mattina Merenda, which consisted of delicious pastries made by Italian pastry chef Andrea, traditional Italian segafredo coffee, Coriole olives and Pizza Romano. We tried croissant like pastries, which were filled with a vanilla and chocolate custard and they were just divine. I had two of each and have no regrets. Guests also enjoyed the traditional Italian peculated coffee to accompany these delicious treats.
We also had delicious Coriole Chefs selection Olives, which were juicy and slightly salty, pretty much the perfect olive. To go with these olives we loved the Pizza Romano. It was a very simple pizza base with olive oil on top. The pizza base itself was amazingly made with a crispy bottom and light and fluffy interior. Mercato have such good quality pizza which is a credit to their pizza chef.
For lunch we had the pleasure of trying Imma’s own Napoletana sauce with Rummo Penne. It was great to be able to taste fresh Passata which we had spent the day making. The sauce itself was everything you want a pasta sauce to taste like. It had an amazing sweet tomato and basil flavour throughout. This dish was the perfect example of how simple food can be the best. The pasta came out to the guests in a big pot and we had to line up to get our plates of pasta. This made the day feel even more like a family affair. It was simply delicious and looking around the table everyone had a smile on their face and I heard a resounding echo of ‘yum’.
If we weren’t full enough from our large but delicious portions of pasta, we then had a second course consisting of Panzanella Salad, Porchetta Tonnato and Pizza al Taglio. Panzanella salad is a favourite of mine with my own family and this version lived up to my expectations. It contained tomatoes, celery, cucumber, bocconcini and toasted bread. The crunch of the toasted bread with the sweet tomatoes and creamy bocconcini did not disappoint.
The Porchetta Tonnato was thinly sliced pork with a mayonnaise sauce containing white anchovies, capers, tuna and lemon. I loved this dish as it was fresh and every ingredient went perfectly together. We also had Pizza al Taglio, with a hot and a margherita option. Again the base was amazingly crisp but light and fluffy and each topping had the best flavour. I really am a fan of Mercato’s pizzas.
As we ate this course we were entertained by Accordion player Crispino. Everyone got involved and sang along, singing traditional Italian tunes as well as Que Sera Sera and Waltzing Matilda. This was a lovely moment of when the Italian and Australian cultures combined and while we had spent the day immersed in Italian culture, we all found common ground of our underlying Australian heritage.
For dessert we enjoyed fruit including big juicy Figs, Grapes, Watermelon and Peaches. We also had a selection of pastries and cakes including Cannoli and Tiramisu. It was the perfect way to end our fabulous meal and enjoyable day. The cannoli was perfect and it’s clear that Pastry Chef Andrea really knows what he’s doing in the kitchen.
Throughout the day there was also plenty of wine on offer including Zuccolo Prosecco which was a favourite amongst guests. There was also Terre dei rumi chardonnay Malvasia and terra dei rumi Montepulciano, sweet red wines which were great accompanied with our meals.
Mercato’s Passata day was a real experience. Not only did we learn first hand tips and tricks from original Mercato owners Imma and Mario themselves, but the food was phenomenal. Guests were made to feel like they were apart of the family and it was a true testament of the culture at Mercato and the way they treat their customers. We were also given a recipe book to take home as well as our sauce, allowing guests to be able to recreate the dishes we ate at home. I had such a fabulous time at this event and would definitely recommend anyone interested in the amazing Italian Culture to consider attending in the future as guests left with a full stomach and a wealth of knowledge you cannot put a price tag on.
Words by Angela Scarfo from All About That Food
WHERE: 625-627 Lower North East Rd, Campbelltown