Marcello's Market & Deli has opened a location in the new Manitoba Hydro building, at the corner of Portage Avenue and Carlton Street.
Although I had privately decided to skip reviewing chain restaurants in this particular blog, I did want to throw down a quick recommendation for Marcello's, as the chain is brand new to Winnipeg as of the opening of this location, and because good restaurants of any stripe on Portage Avenue, right downtown, are a rare breed.
A friend and I enjoyed a quick lunch stop at Marcello's, and quickly vowed to return. The cafeteria-style restaurant boasts a deli which features sandwiches (both ready-made and to-order,) pizza, salads, and some breakfast items. There is also a bakery, every prepackaged beverage on the planet (or so it seemed as I desperately tried to choose between Orangina, Pellegrino, or an Arizona iced tea,) and an expansive buffet.
The buffet is a sight to behold, as it offers multiple options for vegans, vegetarians, meat-lovers, and the perennially picky, from numerous popular international cuisines. You've got pasta, stir fry, shepherd's pie, roast chicken, oven fries, rice, fruit salad, sautéed vegetables, tabouleh, kefta, every soup under the rainbow... You name it, and you can probably find it hot and ready at Marcello's. By my quick survey, there are adequate vegetarian and vegan options for those so inclined. For gluten-free options beyond salad, you'll want to check on that one.
I settled on a salad of lettuce and marinated Mediterranean vegetables, and the butternut squash ravioli with bechamel sauce. The ravioli was tasty, but the bechamel was bland and forgettable. My salad was delicious, and did not need dressing beyond the marinade on the peppers, red onions, olives, and tomatoes.
My lunch companion enjoyed a similar salad, plus some cottage cheese and hard-boiled eggs, and had a small square of the lasagna as well. She raved! The lasagna passed her litmus test, which is no easy feat.
All told, my lunch was $7.50 including my drink, which in my opinion is quite reasonable for a speedy, delicious, healthy downtown lunch. Marcello's prices by the weight of your plate, which is a help to those of us trying to make healthier choices. If you choose to go heavy on the veggies and light on the meat and starches, you're not only eating a more balanced meal, you're also spending less. Not even a dedicated junk food devotee can say no to that shit.
The restaurant is ideally located for the downtown lunch crowd, and the place was busy (but not inconveniently so) when we arrived. I hope the workers in the Manitoba Hydro building and adjacent buildings connected via the skywalk system will provide enough business to keep Marcello's busy during the winter when downtown becomes a windy, frigid ghost town.
Four ketchup-smeared biodegradable potato paper plates out of five.