Ai Mercanti is a family-run business with a large patio in addition to several indoor rooms. It was opened in 1980 by Chef Nadia Locatello and her husband Diego and moved to its present location in 1996. In 2013 their son Simone joined Diego out front and upped the decor as well as adding a French influence to the food. The menu could be described as traditional Venetian dishes with a twist. The interior is softly modern with gold disc light fixtures, bench seating around the perimeter, the wall-mounted CD changer, and a striking black and white bathroom. Service was helpful and efficient, there is a huge wine list, the atmosphere was most pleasant and the food was very good.
The server brought a box of house-made bread. The white was soft and tender and the dark had a bit more texture, but neither was a crusty variety.
Underground is named as such because it is made with root vegetables that change with the season. The twist is the addition of crumbled traditional Venetian spiced cookies. Ours had beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, radish, celeriac, and white potatoes that I took note of. All were cooked nicely to a soft texture and then mixed with onion jam. The cookies were supposed to be peppery but I didn’t detect that flavor addition however they did add a nice crunch to the very good dish.
“Apparently” crispy egg is with potato foam and anchovy and is a signature dish. A sous vide egg yolk is coated in crispy crumbs and served floating in a bowl of potato foam then topped with an anchovy. The yolk was almost too solid to mix in with the foam but it did enough to add the needed richness. The exterior added the texture and the anchovy added the punch. It was really nice too.
Risotto of “secoe” is made with pieces of meat that are between the vertebra in a cow. It is supposed to be a traditional Venetian dish and served for a minimum of 2 people. The plate was decorated with some sea beans and deep-fried bone marrow balls and Grana Padano (mild nutty cheese) cheese. All of these added additional textures and the marrow added richness. Even though you didn’t find large chunks of beef in the risotto the strong flavor of beef prevailed nicely in the perfectly cooked rice.
Even though there were some interesting dessert choices we decided on a glass of grappa to finish the fine meal.