Shanghai Restaurant Review: Italo

By Sophie Steiner, January 22, 2020

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The Place 

After the closure of Funkadelino and the short-lived Funka del Sur experiment, the Funka Group is looking to step up its game with Italo. The full-service lounge with modern Milano style is just above the group’s flagship Funkadeli on Fumin Lu. If you’ve been to UP Shanghai, el Willy or Tomatito, the design will feel familiar – the warm colors, exposed concrete, backlit bar and geometric fixtures are also the work of Max Trullas Moreno of MTMDesign. With the curvature of the bar as the focal point, you can post up there, or hang out on the outskirts for a more intimate experience.

The Food

Italian-inspired comfort food is the name of Italo’s game, with a menu including fritto misto, raw appetizers, gourmet pizzas, family-style pasta, roasted meat and fish entrees. Numbing peppercorn and cinnamon-spiced caponata with burrata or Sichuan chili oil in clam pasta add interest. Still, nobody’s reinventing the wheel with items like arancini or grilled artichokes. 

In contrast, the imaginative cocktails – such as twists on apperitivi and nifty negroni variations – tell an entirely different story. 

Our sweet-toothed companion revisited childhood with a French Mule (RMB70) – a  riff on root beer floats for adults with bourbon, root beer and Angostura bitters all brought together by spicy ginger. Bomba Grassi (RMB80) takes one on a tropical getaway with some help from fresh pineapple juice, Chivas 12 and lemon. The drink’s aromatic cinnamon sugar-dusted rim and vermillion letters spelling Italo in beetroot sugar above a layer of foam – thanks to a hard shake – are nice touches.

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Images by Sophie Steiner/That's 

Next up, the unflawed combination of whiskey, Campari and sweet vermouth is smooth as silk in an Aged Boulevardier (RMB85) garnished with a charred orange slice and two slivers of a Snickers bar. This classic riff on a negroni gets a balance of sweet and bitter just right.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

While delicious, the pillowy (bonus: complimentary) Rosemary Bread and Baba Ganoush served pre-meal built up our expectations for a dinner that ultimately did not deliver. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Under-seasoned Waygu Beef Tataki (RMB88) was obscured by an aggressive lemon aioli that would give even the most devout Campari sipping disciple cause for bitter pause. We ended up snacking on the shatteringly crisp and flavorful Parmesan Chips and sending the rest back to the kitchen untouched.

At least the refreshingly bright Yellowfin Tuna Tartare (RMB78) hit all the right notes with briny olive tapenade, tangy citrus and sweet tomatoes.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The 48-Hour Slow-Cooked Porchetta and Anchovy Pizza (RMB98) has potential, but the ratios are off. In the right proportion, the crunch of radicchio would have been a welcome break from the richness of the pork and salty anchovy. Alas, there was hardly any protein and way too many bitter leaves. We ate our way through the well-seasoned crust instead, making our pizza order an overpriced breadbasket.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The pasta descriptions are tempting, but Pumpkin Tortelloni (RMB108) wasn’t the creamy autumnal roasted pumpkin accentuated by a bit of earthy sage that we had imagined. Instead, we got thick noodle parcels filled with sweet cheese and sprinkled with burnt chili flakes. Likewise, the Duck Ragu Tagliatelle was missing something – we recommend more duck and less cream on this number.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The kitchen did manage a Hail Mary pass with a perfect Lemon Tart (RMB58). Within a very well-baked shortcrust, bruleéd marshmallow fluff is in sweet contrast to mouth-puckering lemon curd. So good, we nearly forgot the mishaps of the previous courses. 

Food Verdict: 1.5/3

The Vibe 

As a lounge, Italo both looks and feels the part. Service is attentive without being overbearing, and the staff is happy to provide drink and food recommendations – both of which arrive quickly after ordering. Funky tunes and a lively ambiance make you want to stick around long after your final drink. The food still needs work, so – besides the excellent tuna tartare and lemon tart – you might want to focus on the intriguing cocktails until they work out the kinks. 

Vibe Verdict: 1.5/2

Total Verdict: 3/5

Price: RMB200-400
Who’s Going: Funkadeli fans, cocktail lovers and party animals
Good For: Aperitivi sessions, dates and weekend hangouts

See a listing for Italo. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews


[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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