If we didn’t know that the Yum! Brands group was behind the opening of Atto Primo, we would never have guessed it. The decor, the menu, the service – there’s almost nothing in common with the group’s other fast food chain restaurants, which include KFC and Pizza Hut. But then this is The Bund, and the global powerhouse is smart enough to know that a slightly different tone is required here.
Occupying a large space on the second level at Five on the Bund, Atto Primo’s decor sees Colonel Sanders substituted for images of Italian theatre, with Venetian masks hanging from the ceiling. The dining room feels open and airy with gold hanging lights, attractive tiles, and seats lining the windows with views across the Huangpu – it’s a classic Bund dining look.
The name Atto Primo means ‘First Act’ in Italian – perhaps a nod to the Yum! Brands’ first foray into fine dining – and the theatrical theme doesn’t stop with the decor. The menus open with the instruction ‘Enjoy the theatre of food’ and we begin to worry that dishes will come out requiring a standing ovation.
There are few surprises on the menu, which focuses on classic Italian fare such as shared appetiser plates of cold cuts (118RMB) and tomato and basil bruschetta (58RMB). The Tuscan chicken liver terrine (88RMB) is a less obvious option for a starter but satisfies nonetheless. It’s served with a jar of crisp and vinegary pickled vegetables, as well as seeded and unseeded mustard. The flavour of the brandy jelly atop the terrine could be more pronounced, but overall it’s an enjoyable opener.
From the pasta and risotto list, which includes three variations of the latter, the mixed seafood linguine (158RMB) is a generous serving of perfectly al dente pasta with plump fresh prawns, and pieces of tuna and scallops interspersed throughout. The garlic and parsley meld seamlessly with the olive oil and buttery sauce making it a pleasant dish until the last bite, though we would have welcomed a little more heat from the slices of chili throughout.
The pizza section of the menu is not huge – with only seven options – but it’s inclusive and reasonably priced, opening with a Margherita (88RMB) and closing with a Calzone Fiorentino (128RMB). The porchetta, spinach, mozzarella and parmesan-stuffed calzone is filling, decadent and instantly impressive.
The main courses naturally come with a price increase; however they remain generally reasonable considering the location. The veal saltimbocca (228RMB) is beautifully presented, with rounds of meat alternating with baked semolina gnocchi, and topped off with roasted artichokes and crispy, paper-thin pancetta and sage leaves. The veal is milky and succulent, the pancetta salty and moreish, and the gnocchi so tasty that we’d happily eat a whole plate of it alone. Another impressive dish.
The dishes are complemented by an elaborate drinks menu, which features five types of Negroni (from 70RMB), including an aromatic Negroni Amaro (80RMB) with Campari and Amaro Lucano, as well as Atto Primo’s signature cocktails. Try La Vie en Rose (95RMB) for a delicately sweet sip thanks to the addition of rose syrup and peach bitters to dry sherry and gin.
Cast aside any prejudices you may have about eating food from the Yum! Brands group. Atto Primo is not perfect – at times the service is surprisingly slow – but it’s a notably well-rounded addition to The Bund. It’s already getting a lot of attention from the local dining crowd and deservedly so –Yum!’s foray into fine dining has produced some surprisingly good results.
By Victoria Brownlee