Charming and popular Yongfu Lu Italian pizzeria
UPDATE: Since the below review was written in February 2012, we've revisited Nene on a number of occasions and found that the restaurant has improved on each visit. The good points we mentioned below - the atmosphere and attentive service - remain, but they have now been joined by an improved consistency in the dishes. The lasagne for example, which we complained about due to its small size and use of meatballs, is now considerably larger and features minced beef instead, making for a delicious dish. The pizzas too, have improved, and are now some of our favourites in the area. Alas, the climb in quality has also meant a climb in prices, and the pizzas for example are now all priced at over 100RMB.
Shanghai’s favourite foreign cuisine, by some distance, is Italian. However, there’s still far too many mediocre venues serving stodgy pizza and feeble pasta. Unfortunately, this new addition to the N47 complex on Yongfu Lu does little to improve our options.
It’s not for a lack of effort. Owner Santo Greco’s friendly and attentive service, combined with the comfortably casual decor, create a homely atmosphere. There are a mere four tables occupying the low-lit space framed by an open kitchen and the restaurant’s founding principle appears to be simplicity: the menu consists of just eight pizzas together with a handful of pasta dishes, cold cuts and heftier mains (such as the slow-roasted echo piglet, 188RMB).
With some dishes, the simple approach works. The pizza arrabiata (98RMB) for example, balances its few ingredients atop a thin Roma-style crust with a tomato and chilli sauce that doesn’t shy from fiery spiciness and is offset by large circles of buffalo mozzarella and deliciously fresh-tasting cherry tomatoes. In the case of the sausage pizza (98RMB) however, the minimalism falls flat, with the tiny amount of sausage feeling more stingy than purposefully restrained.
The pasta dishes are similarly uneven. The lasagna della mamma’s (98RMB) beef quotient is only handful of meatballs while its pasta layers veer off from al dente
toward undercooked. Better, are the paglio e finio
's (98RMB) spears of asparagus and shrimp wrapped in a mess of green and yellow tagliolini with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes and topped with swirls of olive oil. Here, the few ingredients make for a light dish that’s not huge on flavour, but is nonetheless pleasing.
The friendliness of the owner and the laidback intimate environs leave you feeling guilty for not liking Nene more. Its charm and prime location spell great potential, but for now, the menu is too inconsistent to elevate Nene into the small clutch of top-quality Italian venues in town.Charles Miller