Shanghai Restaurant Review: Zizzi

By Geoff Ng, June 25, 2019

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The Place

English import Zizzi has nearly 150 restaurants back on home soil and prides itself on offering Italian fare with local touches. Staples include a signature line of rustica pizzas, spiedini and Mediterranean- style skewers, while the rest of the impeccably designed and beautifully shot menu is fleshed out with family-style appetizers, pastas and cuts of salmon, steak, short rib and veal. 

Imported spices and products include harissa sauce, truffle and Wagyu and feature alongside local options such as infused Chinese teas and pork belly bites. This is the chain’s first store in China as part of a bigger international rollout, taking up a premium location in the middle of the booming Taikoo Hui complex on Nanjing Xi Lu.

The Food

Unfortunately, the menu’s gorgeous photography set the diner up for disappointment. Dishes come out as flaccid representations of themselves, the equivalent of an IRL disappointment of a heavily manicured Tinder profile. Pillowy, plump Pork Belly Bites (RMB58) are thin and overcooked to the point of dryness, while the enticing elemental char of the photographed Broccolini (RMB58) is entirely lost in translation. Plates are finished with some company-prescribed combination red peppers, green herbs and vibrant sauces, but you never get the sense that the dishes have been very much cared for.

IMG_9434.jpgImage by Geoff Ng/That's

The creamy Casareccia Pollo Piccante Pasta (RMB98), folded in with harissa-spiced chicken, is perhaps best compared to an athlete who’s lost a step — it more or less gets the job done but is devoid of any youthful verve. The Chocolate Fondant (RMB68), topped with green tea ice cream and pink petals, comes out rubbery with a reluctant lukewarm core. Nearly everything is too chewy. 

IMG_9443.jpgImage by Geoff Ng/That's

Our Lychee Iced Tea (RMB45) and Negroni Fizz (RMB65) followed the same theme, bland and watered down upon arrival.  

IMG_9411.jpgI
Image by Geoff Ng/That's

The closest thing we found to a dish we’d come back for was the Rustica Mezzo e Mezzo Pizza (RMB148), a long half-and-half pizza offering meatballs and njuda (spicy spreadable Calabrian sausage) on one end, and prawns, fennel and tomatoes on the other. 

IMG_9415.jpgImage by Geoff Ng/That's

The thin, crisp crust serves as a solid foundation to hold up both the bright and summery seafood side and the slight heft and a sharp spice of its meatier counterpart.

Food Verdict: 1.5/3

The Vibe

The cutesy decor, sectioned out over two floors, is perfectly designed to fill Pinterest boards and KOL social media accounts. Instagrammable details fill every nook and cranny of the space. Rope swings serve as seats for waiting diners, emerald tiles pop against colorful patterned seats and walls are covered with playful details, like a hand-drawn specials list and back-lit cursive text promoting “pizza, prosecco and good times in Shanghai.” Jazzy sax tunes fill the air and everything works together to add a sense of texture and playful charm. 

In short, Zizzi is a good looking restaurant conducive to bigger groups looking for a fun, casual dinner. Yet they are straddling a thin line by entering the mushy middle of the market for Italian fare at these prices. Unless you’re wedded to the brand or the interior design, you may struggle to find reasons to make your way over, or even call it to memory when considering dining options.

Vibe Verdict: 1.5/2

Total Verdict: 3/5

Price: RMB200 per person
Who’s going: KOLs, groups and couples out for quiet conversation
Good for: Easy date nights, casual dinners

[Cover image by Geoff Ng/That's]


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See a listing for Zizzi. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews

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