New Italian Market and Cafe Settles into the Corner of 12th Avenue and Carolina

The same crew who brought Vancouver Ask For Luigi have taken over the old Oh Carolina space, at the corner of 12th and Carolina.

Since keys to the revamped neighbourhood convenience store came into the hands of the Kitchen Table team last month, all hands have been on deck preparing 580 East 12th Avenue for its next iteration: a 15-seat cafe and grocer called Mercato di Luigi (sibling to Railtown’s much-loved Italian restaurant, Ask For Luigi). Focused squarely on community, storytelling and comforting food, the idea is to create a welcoming old-school-inspired Italian deli and neighbourhood grocery store, complete with sliced meats, cheese, bread, friendly gossip, and discussion of ‘Calcio’ (soccer) scores.

Beyond the cosmetic, there was not a lot that had to be changed in the space, so good news: doors are now open! Expect a coffee bar and counter area with a tiny open kitchen, retail shelving, and a handful of cafe-style tables. (The seating capacity will expand once warmer weather returns, with additional spots on the patio.) Inside and out, the colour pallet is classic and soothing, off-white and green – an inverted version of Ask For Luigi’s.

Shelves, fridges and freezers are loaded with provisions, from olive oil, anchovy paste and canned tomatoes, to frozen sauces and gelato. And, for those times when you nip in to pick up some mortadella, cheese and bread for home, but then are struck with the immediate urge to put together a sandwich, there’s no need to rush to the curb or sit in your car, savagely ripping open packages and dropping crumbs everywhere. Just chat up the friendly folks at the counter and they’ll sort you out with a sandwich situation on-the-spot, using stuff straight from your grocery bag – just like what would happen at a real Italian grocery store. The condiments are already waiting.

As well as a good selection of Italian pastries and proper espresso, there will be a rotating offering of two types of pasta served daily, at lunchtime (from noon until 2pm), and brunch on the weekends. Fans of Ask For Luigi’s brunch menu (there are many of us!) will be excited to know that some of their dishes will make an appearance on the menu at Mercato, including their famous banana bread. As a glass of wine is central to many Italian meals, a liquor license (or at the very least, a few special event licenses) may be something that we see down the line. But for now, the wine will have to wait.

Mercato di Luigi is open and ready to welcome guests starting today, Wednesday, March 1st. Hours will be 8am-6pm weekdays, 9am-5pm on the weekends. Take a look at the pictures below for a sense of what to expect…

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