Azul Italiano Does It Again, This Time in Tian’an 1000 Trees

By Sophie Steiner, January 10, 2022

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The Place 

Azul Italiano’s second outpost in the recently opened (and insanely popular) Tian’an 1000 Trees mall along Suzhou Creek embodies the motto, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” After the huge success of their first location above Colca on the North Bund, the team hit copy/paste in its new location, with almost exactly the same décor, atmosphere and menu that we all know and love.

Our main takeaway is that diners can expect to find simple, honest dishes with a very beneficial price to quality ratio. 

READ MORE: Honest, Italian-Inspired Bites at Azul Italiano

Image courtesy of Azul Italiano

The Tian’an 1000 Trees building opened in late December, a project that has already become a landmark on the world stage.

Created and designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the architectural design encompasses hundreds of terraces and concrete columns with more than 20,000 plants to blur the line between architectural structure and garden.

The building houses over 160 designer brands, restaurants and cafes interspersed with artist displays, creating a true shopping and eating paradise. 

Image courtesy of Azul Italiano

The Food 

Azul Italiano, an Italian-inspired concept (emphasis on the ‘inspired’) is led up by the Latin American group behind Azul and Colca. The goal is not to serve traditional Italian dishes, but rather use this carb-loving country’s cuisine as a jumping off point for taking creative liberties that appeal more to the Chinese palate.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

While you’ll find the usual Italian suspects on the menu – antipasta, pizza, pasta, Italian aperitif-inspired sippers, etc. – many of them only share a connection to Italian dishes in name or general flavor profile. 

The addition of seasonal ingredients or fusion elements connect it to the rest of the groups’ restaurants in regards to imaginative style and inventive presentation. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The starters begin with the snack-worthy Italian Board (RMB98), a selection of cold cuts, plush rosemary bread, pickled vegetables and olives.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Melon and Ham (RMB68) sees curls of Parma ham adorning rolled swirls of honeydew melon, interspersed with charred figs, aged balsamic pearls, toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of honey. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

More snack-worthy bites include marinated Chicken Wings (RMB58/6) that are flash fried until crispy, then doused in a sticky honey and Sichuan peppercorn glaze.

Using their custom-built pizza oven, Azul Italiano offers up six pizza selections, ranging from tried-and-true flavor combinations like Pepperoni (RMB78) and Spicy Italian (RMB88) to unconventional yet intriguing options like Smoked Salmon (RMB88) and Porcini and Truffle (RMB98).

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We dug our teeth into the San Daniele Pizza (RMB98), topped generously with prosciutto, rocket and shaved parmesan atop and tomato sauce and mozzarella-based pie.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

It wouldn’t be an Italian joint without the pasta, and there are plenty to choose from. We opted for the traditional Meatballs Pasta (RMB68) cooked ‘Italian-style’ with tomato sauce and thick pappardelle-esque noodles. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As for protein-heavy mains, there are choices from both land and sea. The Black Angus Rib Eye Steak (RMB498/500 grams) sees an Australian 150 days grain fed cut of beef served with truffle fries coated in parmesan cheese, black olive powder, truffle sea salt and a piquant chimichurri sauce. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Desserts skew towards light and refreshing, with bites like Lemon Pie (RMB58) – a thick layer of lemon curd topped with toasted meringue and lemon sorbet.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And, our go-to: White Chocolate Semi-Freddo (RMB68) – a white chocolate exterior encasing a tart berry center, topped with fresh fruits and mango sorbet. 

The Vibe 

The unpretentious space is inviting, constantly humming with energy, accented by colorful art displays across the walls, vibrant booth and chair seating.

Ample light streams in from the floor to ceiling windows in the back that open up to a beautiful outdoor patio. 

Image courtesy of Azul Italiano

Like its sister location on the North Bund, the restaurant seats 80-100 people, and, so far, is turning over 500 covers a day at least.

In short, it’s really popular, so we suggest making a reservation.

Price: RMB120-200
Who’s Going: The Suzhou Creek lunching crowd, peckish architect and art fans checking out Tian’an 1000 Trees, die-hard Eduardo Vargas fans, curious Italian expats
Good For: Sunny lunches, Italian-inspired eats, light yet-full flavored meals

See listing for Azul Italiano. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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