Honest, Italian-Inspired Bites at Azul Italiano

By Sophie Steiner, July 16, 2021

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The Place 

Coming at you from the Latin American group behind Azul and Colca is something totally out of left field – Azul Italiano, an Italian-inspired concept in the events space above the new Colca on the North Bund. Emphasis on the ‘inspired.’

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Image courtesy of Azul Italiano

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Image courtesy of Azul Italiano

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.

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

The Food 

Expect to find simple, honest dishes with a very beneficial price to quality ratio. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Starters, like the Tuna Tartare (RMB98) lean towards refreshing and vibrant, with a base of chopped avocado supporting soft cubes of fresh tuna and a garnish of quail eggs sprinkled with bright orange spheres of roe, basil and red radish. A nose-tingling wasabi mayo is cooled by mascarpone lemon cream and a tangy ginger soy dressing.  

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Crispy, lace-like parmesan cheese tuiles alternate with thinly sliced shaved parmesan atop the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio (RMB98). A drizzle of truffle oil, crisp arugula and homemade fresh pesto add earthy herbaceousness, while roasted pine nuts bring a necessary textural crunch. 

Pro tip: this dish is currently on promotion through Dianping, so order in store via the app, and enjoy this meal-sized portion for just RMB66. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Guests can play artist for the day, painting with dollops of alternating wasabi mayo, mascarpone lemon cream and black garlic purée that sit atop the delicately thin Swordfish Carpaccio (RMB68)

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Creamy rosemary polenta pairs with porcini mushroom ragout in the Mushrooms & Polenta (RMB68). A garnish of arugula, parmesan and truffle oil brighten the plate. 

DSC05544.jpgTuscan Salad (RMB58), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Roasted cherry tomatoes peek out between strands of black pasta, seasoned with spicy prawn oil, shiso leaves nori and – most importantly – big meaty chunks of tender crab meat in the Red Crab Pasta (RMB128). 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Australian Wagyu Grass Fed Striploin (RMB398/350 grams) is juicy and tender, served with crispy truffle potato wedges and an Italian spin on chimichurri sauce – made with basil and garlic. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A must order, the Cioppino (RMB248) – a creamy tomato, lobster head and shellfish stew – arrives simmering with tiger prawns, scallops, halibut, black mussels and clams, served with the butteriest toasted garlic bread. Eat your way through the seafood first, then sop up every last drop of that stew with any form of carb you can get your hands on.  

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

For dessert, Our Version of Cannoli (RMB58) comes with six vanilla ricotta cream-stuffed crispy cannolis halves in alternating sizes, sprinkled with anything from crumbled pistachios to chocolate shavings to freeze-dried fruits.  

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Fallen Garden (RMB88) is the house spin on tiramisu in the most whimsical of forms. A chocolate 'flower pot' is packed with a Marsala wine-infused tiramisu, with cream dusted 'chocolate dirt' spilling out onto the plate.

Mushroom-shaped meringue, fresh fruit, mint and berry sorbet garnish the splattered garden. In Chef Will Colmenares’ true whimsical fashion, diners can break open the pot with a golden hammer served on the side, grab a chocolate shard and use it to dip in the tiramisu shrubbery. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Azul Italiano also offers pizzas, a variety of veggie sides and an expansive spread of steaks, lamb chops and grilled fish. On the drinks front, there are cocktails, mocktails, juices and coffee beverages. The menu is currently at about 60% of the size it will be by the beginning of September, so be on the lookout for more to come!

The Vibe 

Seating 80-100 people, this colorful, airy space receives loads of sunshine, making it top-of-mind for comfortable, casual lunches. The restaurant can be partitioned into separate areas, so it’s conducive for private events and public meals simultaneously. 

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Image courtesy of Azul Italiano

Despite being open for just over a month, it’s full throughout the day and on weekends, probably due to a combination of the straightforward menu, affordable prices, refreshing flavors and upbeat atmosphere that matches the Latin pop and hip hop playing across the space.  

Price: RMB120-200
Who’s Going: The North Bund lunching crowd, private event organizers, die-hard Eduardo Vargas fans, curious Italian expats
Good For: Sunny lunches, Italian-inspired eats, light yet-full flavored meals


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

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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