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168 Lujiazui Xi Lu

This restaurant is now Mammamia! and has moved to 1333 Huaihai Zhong Lu.

A chalk drawing on the wall of new Super Brand Mall trattoria Matto explains the art of creating ‘real Neapolitan pizza’. Looking like an odd octopus-monster from a cheap ’70s horror flick, the diagram of a pizza oven specifies precise temperatures and features such ingredients as volcanic sand and a master carpenter from Napoli. Matto, whose name means ‘crazy’ (in a good way), clearly take their pizzas very seriously.

And it shows. Their pizzas are masterful, easily some of the city’s best and worthy of standing side by side with those from the nearby The Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo, Shanghai’s pizzeria par excellence. A look at chef and part-owner Enzo Carbone’s CV explains why: Carbone was Cuomo’s man in Asia for years, directing openings in Korea, Japan,Singapore and China, including Issimo at JIA. Matto is a collaboration between Carbone and JIA.

White, fried and even grilled pizzas are on the menu, but it’s the traditional Neapolitans--Carbone is a native of Naples--that really shine. The materdei (108RMB) arrives on a 12 inch metallic plate and features a thin, pleasantly chewy crust with slightly blackened edges and the odd bubble erupting close to the topping. A rich tomato sauce is used sparingly – not so much that it dominates, nor so little that it feels mean – while the mix of mozzarella, spicy imported salami and a handful of basil combine for a perfect balance of hot and fresh.

Also impressive is the calzone (98RMB) served with a thatch of fresh rocket and translucent slices of parmesan and filled with hot, gooey goats cheese and mozzarella, plus a burst of flavour from fresh basil. The fried and grilled pizzas are less successful than the standard options including a calabrese (88RMB) which also resembles a calzone, with grated parmesan and basil leaves atop its folded base. Stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, aubergine and the same spicy sopressata sausage strips that grace the materdei, it’s tasty but a little heavy going.

Away from the pizzas, the rest of the menu is accomplished. The deliciously chewy fried calamari (68RMB), which arrive in a brown paper bag with a smiley face drawn on the side, make for a light starter, good for sharing. From the antipasti, the parmigiana (68RMB), served in a rustic clay pot, allows Matto’s rich tomato sauce to take centre stage, smothering the thin strips of soft aubergine. Topped with mozzarella, the first few mouthfuls are deliciously full-bodied, though it can become a bit plodding unless you dig out the fresh basil leaves for some balance.

A southern-style lasagna (88RMB) is a homey mix of soft pasta layers, beef sauce and yet more spicy salami, but our preferred pasta is the mushroom and cream-laden fettucine (78RMB), thanks to its fresh handmade pasta ribbons.

Interestingly, Matto’s grill options feature a beef burger (88RMB), something we thought sacrilegious for most Italian restaurants. Perhaps it’s a nod to the space’s previous incarnation as a branch of Blue Frog – the tasty Angus beef patty, topped with taleggio cheese, crisp pancetta, lettuce and tomato is certainly a solid burger option, if not quite as indulgent as Blue Frog’s creations.

Their reworking of the former burger joint’s interior transformed the space into a stylish yet relaxed venue with bistro-style tables at one end and cosier booths at the other with a smattering of outdoor seating at the pleasant, if sparse-feeling, terrace at the back. The bar-like areas naturally lend themselves more to enjoying Matto’s drinks list, particularly during their two-for-one happy hour (5-8pm Monday-Friday), but the whole operation blends together well.

Service is sharp, friendly and particularly impressive for such a recently opened restaurant, though the speed and bustle we welcome during one lunchtime visit feels a little hurried when repeated during our evening meals.

Overall however, Matto is a fantastic addition to Shanghai’s dining scene and immediately takes a place in the upper echelons of Italian restaurants in the city.

Charles Miller

Venue name: Matto
Opening hours: 10am-midnight daily
Metro: Lujiazui
English address: GF50, First Floor, Super Brand Mall, 168 Lujiazui Xi Lu, Lujiazui Ring Road, Pudong
Chinese address: 浦东陆家嘴西路168号正大广场GF50单元, 近陆家嘴环路