If this were New York, Scarpetta would be adrift in a sea of small, quaintly formed restaurants offering a personal adaptation of a nation’s local cuisine. We wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the rustic inviting space or be surprised when the owner comes out to explain the story behind the menu.
But this is not New York, and Scarpetta is different. Shanghai is crawling with pretenders and few have gone through a few thousand recipes to get there. American owner John Liu has taken a background in finance and a passion for food and distilled them into an expensive but considered five-page menu of his versions of Italian dishes.
We started with a take on the traditional Caprese (RMB118). Using local buffalo mozzarella, an assortment of cheery, roasted, green tomatoes and their own basil reduction, it’s not a purist’s dream but a refreshing take. Similarly modified is the calamari fritti (RMB98), tender rings of squid fried alongside carpaccio-thin rings of lemon which give a delicate zest to the squid ink and aioli dipping sauce.
Liu’s pizzas also reflect an attention to personalization with wide, puffed crusts and soggy, topping-loaded centers. Our home-made sausage-dressed salsiccia (RMB128) was wonderful, perhaps not as much as à Cote’s, but worth returning for. Their pastas are also provocative. A curious selection is Scarpetta’s bavette con cacio e pepe (RMB118). Linguini tossed in pecorino and Parmigiano-Reggiano, it’s very lightly dressed and served in a bowl made from Parmesan. It comes with an ‘incredibly cheesy’ warning. It is, and also incredibly peppery.
We barely had room or deep enough pockets for the fresh and rich tiramisu (RMB68) and instead opted for a glass of house red (RMB48) and the chance to enjoy a slice of somewhere else in the world.
- 021 3376-8223
- 33 Mengzi Lu, near Xietu Lu [map]
- ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆