Scarpetta – Shanghai

While unrelated to the high-end American version (whose NYC flagship I will taste for myself in two weeks), Shanghai’s Scarpetta was a restaurant I’d started hearing good things about basically as soon as I arrived here in June.  As a lowkey farewell of sorts for our California-bound friend Sophia, a small group, six of us, gathered here on a quiet weekday night before the Mid-Autumn holidays.

Myra and I arrived a bit late, and there was already a dish of fried calamari with bay leaves and squid ink aioli waiting for us (the rest of ’em had gotten hungry waiting for us, apparently) and a jar of polenta topped with mushrooms with a crispy parmesan wafer (not pictured):

Myra got a delicious arugula salad that had a sweet dressing and chunks of caramel, topped with shaved parmesan and balsamic, a fantastic combination of flavors (somehow):

A diavola pizza, with spicy cured meat resembling pepperoni whose name I didn’t remember to remember (and which will probably turn out to be pepperoni), followed shortly thereafter:

I’m not a particular fan of the Italian food scene in Shanghai – it lacks consistency (a place gets popular and its chefs start to turn their attention to second and third projects) and also tends to skew toward higher price points, in which case I’d much rather have really good Chinese food for less money.  That said, some of my favorite stateside restaurants were Italian – namely Pizzeria Mozza and its unorthodox and unmatched pizza – and sometimes, despite all logic and good sense, I just desperately crave a good pizza.  I’m happen to say that at least based on our dinner that night, Scarpetta Shanghai churned out two pizzas – and in particular pizza crusts – that were moderately comparable (in the absolute sense, not even relative to the substandard expectations Shanghai has set for me) with Mozza’s.  Our next pizza was the salsiccia, with sausage, mushrooms, red onions, and spicy tomato sauce:

I ordered the orechiette bolognese with bone marrow:

While it was tasty, the dish couldn’t really keep up with the high bar that the previous dishes had set – the pasta was chewy and the bone marrow somewhat flavorless.  However, Myra’s dish, chicken al mattone (cooked under a brick) with roasted potatoes, was a superb combination of crisp and juicy, meat and herbs.  As the saying goes: si coques eam sub lateres, erit delectamenti (which is what Google translate gave me in Latin for: “if you cook it under a brick, it will be delicious”).

We didn’t get around to dessert because we were all so stuffed (also, they’d run out of all the gelato flavors we were willing to entertain), but it was a great pick-me-up heading into three weeks of extensive travel, knowing that when I get back to Shanghai, I might well have a go-to Italian place tasty enough for those debilitating pizza cravings.

 

Scarpetta
33 Mengzi Lu, near Xujiahui Lu (蒙自路33号, 近徐家汇路)

Recommendations:
(1) Fried calamari with squid ink aioli, (2) arugula salad, (3) diavola and salsiccia pizzas, and (4) chicken under a brick.

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