Osteria, which operates under the no-nonsense banner of “pizza – bar – music”, is the new brainchild of Enrico Berti, who’s inarguably an old hand in Tianjin’s F&B scene. Ever since his days of running a (now defunct) Italian delicatessen in the central area of Yingkoudao, the Bologna native has become synonymous with this part of town. Having first interviewed Enrico when he was still running Grill Brothers, an eclectic Xinjiang kebab dive with an Italian twist, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the ever gracious, slickly quaffed Italian coming back to his roots. He once admitted to being “an atypical Italian... because funnily enough, growing up, I preferred ‘Chinese food’ to pasta and pizza. I was big into lemon chicken and spring rolls.”
Although located aboveground in a heavily trafficked part of the city, the place manages to pull off that familiar, cellar-like Italian tavern vibe, meanwhile adding a bit of Japanese izakaya-style to the mix with its inviting bar, which seats a handful of patrons and is flanked by a bartender who’s willing to cater to requests. In this quaint yet stylish decor, Italian staples are served alongside draft Asahi (RMB25), a conscious choice inspired by the owner’s love for Japanese dive bars, which incidentally draws in quite a few of the city’s Japanese expats. Those who’ve met Enrico, will certainly remember him. A former metal-head and quite the man about town, when he’s not busy adding his personal touch to his restaurant, he can be found after hours sampling Japanese skewers next door with his crew, or getting down to house and techno grooves in Tianjin’s late night hangouts.
Although Enrico is more aware than anyone that “finding good kitchen staff is by far the hardest thing to do as a restaurateur in China,” he seems to have done just that. The newly updated, well-balanced menu features a decent selection of starters, salads, pizzas and mains, of which the Involtini di Bresaola (cured beef rolls, RMB58), Spaghetti Aglio Olio Pepperoncino (RMB 58) and Gamberoni Alla Griglia (RMB 98) are only a few of the authentic standouts.
As for the pizzas, whichever wood-oven baked pie you decide to get, we strongly recommend topping it with a side of ultra-fresh burrata cheese (mozzarella and cream), which comes oozing onto the pie and is limited to a handful of servings each day.
Wash all these tasty treats down with any choice of the sizeable selection of liquors or cocktails (finally a place in Tianjin that does Aperol Spritz, at RMB40), not to mention Italian spirits that will cleanse your palate like the loving touch of an Italian grandmother. We guarantee you’ll want to stay here until closing time, and maybe even come back for lunch the next day.
Due to limited capacity, the place gets packed early on in the evening, so be sure to make reservations or take your place in the queue with a cold draft beer or glass of Italian house wine in hand.
See a listing for Osteria