When asking John Caporaso about his business he describes it in three words.
Italy in Adelaide.
And that is exactly what it is.
Mercato, located in the north-eastern suburb of Campbelltown, is a modern retail store encompassing the European shopping experience. Adelaide’s own little slice of Italian charm.
“If you think of Italy, you think of a pretty relaxed lifestyle. It’s about enjoying the good life. That’s what we’re trying to achieve,” John explains.
Walking into Mercato is like stepping into a store in the heart of Rome, equipped with Italian music and aromas of roasted coffee and freshly baked pastries and pizza, ready to tickle the senses and set stomachs growling.
Respecting true Italian tradition, Mercato boasts a strong sense of community, with both staff and customers made to feel part of the family.
“Some people come in up to three times a day to connect with our staff. It almost becomes a place to meet the locals, similar to a pub,” John describes.
The Mediterranean-style store prides itself on offering customers the chance to buy local and authentic Italian produce. The grocery section provides every essential for the ultimate Italian pantry with everything from a range of pastas and sweets to homemade olive oil every winter and passata (pasta sauce) every summer. Fresh pasta is also made in store every Monday by Nonnas (the literal Gods of cooking).
“We certainly aim to have something that we stand by and endorse as quality that we place on the shelf,” says John.
The in-store bar resembles an Italian café and provides the perfect setting for mingling. Here, chefs prepare delicious authentic Italian dishes for customers to enjoy, with the menu changing with the seasons
The ‘pizza al taglio’ is a signature dish, and is supposedly unlike any other pizza in Adelaide. As John describes the pizza making process, it’s easy to see why it is so unique.
A cooking style that originates from Rome, the pizza dough is left to rest for 72 hours in order to create a thick yet light and fluffy rectangular pizza base.
He continues to explain, “the idea there is that the toppings become a separate portion to the pizza. You might grill some zucchini in the kitchen for example, and then put the tomato base with the cooked vegetables on top.
“You can also buy by the slice, which reflects the street food of Rome, and is an aspect of difference of our store”.
Mercato also holds a happy hour every day from 2pm until 5pm.
“Traditionally, on the way home from work, an Italian would stop into a café and order an afternoon beverage. We’re trying to emulate that here by offering the same Aperitivo style drinks,” John explains.
Happy hour consists of $5 wines, $6 beers and $10 cocktails, including a Strega Espresso Martini. Sweeter in flavour, it brings an Italian spin to the cocktail classic – and it’s yellow. Guests will also receive a complimentary bowl of snacks with any happy hour purchase.
Mercato is also hosting a cocktail night this Friday from 5pm, offering those in the east the perfect way to spend Friday night knock-offs.
Mercato has not always been the modern retail store you see today. John’s parents began the store as a humble continental deli in 1972, Imma and Mario’s Mercato. Having essentially grown up with the flavours of Italy, it was only a matter of time before John expanded the little corner store belonging to his parents.
“I knew the milk bars at the time weren’t going to last and knew we had to opt for something different and bigger.
“I certainly saw an opportunity to take over the family business. The big supermarkets were going for more gourmet produce and I knew then that I had to make a name for good quality, gourmet type foods and take our store to the next level,” John explains.
Now approaching nearly 50 years in business, the Mercato brand is looking to expand and head into other ventures such as travel, education and even language, with a view to teach the Italian language to those young and old.
“[People] can expect [Mercato] to be a fun sort of place, and a little bit chaotic at times. They should expect to either eat or drink something delicious, or walk away with something to eat in their own homes.”
You can find Mercato at 625-627 Lower North East Road Campbelltown.