Big news over at Primus Hotel Shanghai Hongqiao, which has brought in top Italian chef Simone Villa and updated their Al Cappello Trattoria concept.
Chef Simone Villa
Chef Simone polished his cooking skills with Gualtiero Marchesi, the Master of Modern Italian Cuisine, before gaining rich experience working in Michelin restaurants and luxury hotels all over the world, from Britain to Spain to Germany and Asia. And, of course, his native Italy, to which Trattoria Al Cappello pays tribute.
"I want to keep the same concept that a trattoria means to an Italian – a restaurant with great food and a family feel, welcoming and unpretentious. That's why we decided to go with family-style serving," Chef Simone tells us.
"But also, as executive chef, I decided to add my own signature dishes – the risotto, an Italian bouillabaisse, the cannoncino – stuff that is not necessarily typical in a traditional Italian restaurant."
Warm and easy-going, Chef Simone focuses on sourcing the best products available, and letting his ingredients shine, taking guests on a modern gourmet journey of Italy.
“My cooking philosophy is to respect the ingredients," Chef Simone enthuses. "At the same time, the production of any dish requires not only good raw materials and superb cooking skills, but also a creativity and passion for food."
Passionate Chef Simone surely is. We headed over to Hongqiao to try out some of his signature dishes...
There is no finer way to start an Italian meal than with a huge cold cuts platter. The Al Cappella Antipasto Misto (RMB288) features Parma ham, salami, bresaola, Praha ham, Parmesan chunks and a nice creamy burrata.
One of Chef Simone's signature dishes, the Guazzetto (RMB88) is a traditional seafood soup typical of the Liguria Region of north-western Italy, which borders France's Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
High quality seafood – mussels, scallops, shrimps and squid – swim in an olive, anchovy, caper and mixed vegetable-based sauce.
Arancini are stuffed rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and then deep fried, sealing in all that risotto style goodness. Al Cappello's Arancini Siciliani (RMB68) contains Bolognese sauce and mozzarella, sitting in a tomato and basil sauce and topped with fried basil.
A staple of Sicilian cuisine, they make for a flavorful starter, perfect for sharing.
The Torre Caprese (RMB78) is a fresh take on a classic salad, with a tower of tomato, buffalo mozzarella and rocket, paired with a basil emulsion. The fresh ingredients speak for themselves with this one.
The Capasanta (RMB228) sees Chef Simone make the most of nature's ingredients and play with flavor profiles; a rose of Norwegian smoked salmon sits atop seared Hokkaido scallops sits atop grilled zucchini, accompanied by a citrus zest jus and garnished with mint.
This dish wows the senses with premium ingredients paired imaginatively and beautifully presented.
Another real standout, the Risotto Al Gamberoni (RMB158) is a Milan style risotto with saffron to which Chef Simone adds mascarpone and scamorza, a stretched-curd substitute for mozzarella that gives it a delicious smoky finish. A king prawn and sautéed asparagus tops the dish off in style.
The La Pinsa Romana section of the menu is dedicated to the humble pinsa, a traditional pizza style from Rome, with ingredients placed on a dough bed made with soy and rice flour, making for a healthier alternative to traditional pizza.
We went for the Parma-Capri (RMB148), topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomato, arugula and Parma ham. Plentiful and simple, it allows the tastes of Italy take center stage.
For dessert, the Cannoncino (RMB68) is Chef Simone's celebration of the kind of pastries you'd find in an Italian patisserie. A classic puff pastry is wrapped in a tube and filled with mascarpone and choco compote, all served with lots of lovely fresh fruit.
Al Cappello Trattoria takes inspiration from Puccini's final opera Turandot, set as it is in China, for the concept of the space. The modern decor mirrors the modern cuisine, and suits the upscale nature of the place, while an open kitchen allows diners to admire the craftsmanship going into each dish.
One great touch is Al Cappello's trolley, that features a cornucopia of classic condiments from Italy and beyond, with a large range of olive oils, salts – they do a mean range of steaks – mustards and more, as well as deli-style items like artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes.
If we were to sum up the Al Cappello vibe in one term, it'd have to be 'Trattoria Chic.'
Al Cappello Trattoria, No.100, Lane 1588 Zhuguang Lu, by Yinggang Dong Lu 诸光路1588弄100号, 近盈港东路.