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Tucked down one of Jing’an Villas’ excruciatingly quaint alleys, Vale has been serving up Italian food under the radar for a while now. We went along to find that if you can stay awake long enough for the food to arrive, their simple menu has a lot to offer. Just don’t order a pizza.

It’s a cute, small space, filled with only a handful of tables frequented by Shanghai’s young leisure class updating their Weibo statuses. Behind the counter, the owners are a hive of activity, putting courses together plate by plate in a shoebox kitchen. Right about when we’d given up hope for anything beyond a bottle of London Pride (RMB40), the dishes arrived.

The cherry tomato and mozzarella salad (RMB58) was a welcome start. While local produce can still have that certain stigma, this dish has the simplicity and volume, if not the authenticity, of a classic Italian appetizer. It stands out against a too-sultry artichoke, mushroom and black olive salad (RMB58), an ensemble requiring balanced, quality ingredients. You get the sense that Vale’s limits are being stretched.

The inconsistency continued through a plate of ricotta stuffed ravioli (RMB68). Crying out for a sage and butter sauce, it was instead served with a hearty tomato Bolognese. In truth it was actually rather tasty, though it made the absence of a bread basket for mop-up duty even more obvious.

We moved on to pizza, and it’s clear that they’re not hiding a wood-fired oven down the back alley. The result is one of Shanghai’s worst pizzas (RMB68-RMB78)–they should have called it a basil and mozzarella-topped ciabatta.

Also having an identity crisis is a slightly robust crème caramel disguised as a pannacotta (RMB38). Instead, go for the chocolate lava fondant (RMB38), if you go at all.

  • Vale
  • 021 6217-0654

  • Rm. 192 Jing’an Villas, 1025 Nanjing Xi Lu [map]
  • 上海市南京西路1025弄静安别墅192号

  • Italian
  • ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
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