The concept marries Italian cuisine curated by the classically trained chef, who also studied and worked for six months in Italy with Sonoma County agriculture. The market is an extension that features both local produce and products, along with specialty items imported from Italy.
A mutual friend introduced Patel to Chandi Hospitality’s top executives. After doing research, Chandi Hospitality asked him to create the menu for one of its 11 concepts, Bollywood Bar & Clay Oven in Santa Rosa. Patel’s experience in Italy sparked the idea for Mercato.
“Wine country ethos and Italian food culture are similar in many ways,” says Sonu Chandi, founder and president of the parent company. He adds that Patel has found a synergy between Sonoma’s local ingredients and vibrant Italian flavors.
Mercato was planned as a restaurant first, says David Asher, director of retail. Patel, however, was considering opening a market within a new Italian restaurant in Miami. As luck would have it, Mercato’s space (which had housed a burger concept also owned by Chandi) offered enough space for a market, too.
Asher previously worked in New York’s fashion district. “I’ve been to Eataly a hundred times,” he says. “It’s the mothership of this in terms of having all the supplies to be inspired as a chef. We are the smallest possible version of Eataly.”
While the Sonoma Valley is known for wine tourism, other produce and gourmet goods provide plenty of in-season ingredients for the market. At certain times of the year, Mercato even puts up a sidewalk farm stand in front of the business.