This glittering, modern Italian bistro makes every meal feel like a dinner party—only with better short ribs and risotto than you could ever pull off at home. A few blocks east of the Avenue of the Arts, its makes a great spot for a pre- or post-theater meal of contemporary Italian-American takes on classic Italian cuisine, such as the ever-popular Pyramid Pasta stuffed with ricotta, lobster, and shrimp, and topped with parmesan brown butter and pine nuts. Also great: the bruschetta, and the fontina-stuffed meatballs.

Not that the restaurant doesn't respect Old World values in the kitchen. As in Italy itself, it tries to use only ingredients that are currently at their freshest, so the menu changes regularly to keep up with whatever is in season. 

Take note that Mercato is cash only, although the restaurant has finally started taking reservations on its website via Open Table. Also it is BYO, so bring your own bottle(Pennsylvania's byzantine alcohol laws and overpriced liquor licenses mean a surprisingly number of Philly eateries are on the BYO model).