Food That Feeds the Stomach & Soul at Lucky Lasagna's Bambino

By Sophie Steiner, December 28, 2022

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The Place 

Winner of the 2021 That’s Shanghai Food & Drink Award Chef of the Year, Chef Lucky Lasagna has parted ways with Italo to launch his first ever independent restaurant, Bambino, a 30-seater trattoria on Shanxi Bei Lu that used to house Popot.

The new venture is in collaboration with the Juke team – Chef Michael Janczewski (Bastard, Juke) and Sebastien Dallee (Juke, previously of Italo) on the creative side, plus cocktails curated by Colin Tait (Shake, Black Rock)

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A bastion to all things comforting and good in this world, Chef Lucky’s bold use of ingredients and unapologetically soulful style carry over to Bambino, with the restaurant’s new tagline “cucina furiosa.

He is the literal embodiment of the restaurant's spirit animal, nonna and mascot, as he’s not afraid to share his humble home comfort flavors as food that feeds both the stomach and the heart. 

The Food

Hailing from Aprilia, just outside of Rome, Chef Lucky is not your stereotypical chef. His exuberant – almost theatrical – personality is magnetic, drawing diners in with a need to know more – more about his background, his food and his story.

He is a caricature of himself, and that shows up in what he puts on the plate – exactly what he believes should be there, whether that aligns with customary Italian cuisine or not. 

Image courtesy of Chef Lucky Lasagna

His gastronomic style isn’t based on a rigid culinary school background, but instead it has evolved from real world cooking experiences that pull inspiration from his favorite childhood dishes.

The result? Simultaneously traditional yet unconventional Italian food where the quality of the ingredients is the focus. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Simple bites like fresh, baked daily breadsticks, or Grissone (RMB16) are American South biscuit-like, flaky and steaming when torn open, sprinkled with flakes of sea salt.

The daily olive oil for dipping changes with chef’s mood or what he has on hand that day – peppery rosemary and basil or fiery chilis and pink peppercorns. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Like a Neapolitan frittatine, the Alphabet Arancini (RMB58/2 pieces) sees the customary rice filling swapped out for cheesy alphabet pasta and cracked black pepper – a playful homage to cacio e pepe.

Swaddled in a blanket of Parma ham, the crunchy fritters, when pierced, can only be described as gooey goodness. 

DSC04900.jpgCrab (RMB98), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Because you can get burrata everywhere, Lucky breaks convention again, opting for sliced Buffalo Mozzarella (RMB78) interspersed with medallions of charred zucchini, snap peas, garden herbs, a hint of chili and toasted hazelnuts – every bite bringing a welcomed surprise.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Artichoke (RMB82) is not composed of the petaled green variety, commonly known as French artichokes, but rather Jerusalem artichokes – or sunchokes – a root vegetable resembling a knobby fingerling potato.

The nutty flavor comes through in everything from the jackets of crispy baked skin to the luscious, mashed potato-like center. 

Yet even more standout than the Jerusalem artichokes themselves is the Piedmont bagna cauda cream upon which they rest – a seemingly simple blend of garlic, milk and anchovies that creates the ultimate balance of umami saltiness, caramelized sweet onions and toasted walnuts. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A purée of concentrated yellow cherry tomatoes acts as the sauce for the Chinese red prawn, lime skin and ricotta-stuffed Ravioli (RMB78).

And a generous shaving of Italian-imported pecorino sits like a snowy mountain atop the handmade pasta – a pairing of cheese and seafood that breaks the rules in Italian cooking.

But, Chef Lucky does it anyway, purely to prove that this no-no can actually be a yes-yes. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A truly Roman menu could not exist without showcasing an aspect of quinto quarto (translated to “fifth quarter”), a key component of modern Rome cuisine that features offal and tripe.

Cooked to utter, springy perfection, the tripe in the Trippa a La Romana (RMB80) is bathed in Chef Lucky’s grandma’s recipe of a thick tomato stew, sprinkled with green olives. 

And because the polenta you can get on Taobao is “sh*t,” according to Chef, he makes his own for the base of this dish – a true labor of love; half the corn is dried for two days then slowly caramelized for a boldly ‘corn-y’ flavor before being ground together with softer corn, typically used for congee.

The contrasting consistencies unite in a dense, almost gluey spoonful, peppered with chewy bits of kernel and parmesan cheese. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Using the same corn as the polenta, Chef Lucky boils and blends it into a corn milk of sorts, which then set as the cooked cream in the Panna Cotta (RMB60).

Punchy amaro Montenegro-glazed boozy currants impart a berry-like tartness, while crowns of salted popcorn add a textural crunch to this corn inception of a dessert. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As for the libations, there are the usual suspects like Aperol Spritz (RMB68) and Negroni (RMB68), plus a few souped-up sippers.

We highly recommend the velvety Limoncello Milk Punch (RMB50) with lemon, nutmeg and milk-washed limoncello. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The wine program, designed by wine expert extraordinaire Sebastien Dallee, is all about the world’s best sex; women that is, as the menu explains:

“In an extremely male-oriented society, Bambino has chosen to showcase the woman behind the bottle – be it female-owned vineyards, importers or wine makers.”

From full-body Chianti Clasico to refreshing Vermentino to pleasantly sweet and funky Malvasia Moscatel, you can expect a stellar glass. 

The menu is currently quite tight – 12 dishes – but it will expand to 15-18 within the coming weeks. After Chinese New Year, the plan is to open for lunch, with daily panini and soup offerings.

But, of course, this is Lucky’s kitchen, so don’t expect a few measly layers of cold cuts and cheese. Think Roman style jus-dripping Italian beef with sautéed chicory on a crusty baguette, or a thick dollop of saucy tripe on hearty house-made focaccia in an assortment of flavors. 

The Vibe 

A typical neighborhood Italian trattoria, Bambino feels welcoming and cozy, like walking into a friend’s home.

The first floor only offers one eight-seater communal table centered around a giant inlaid rosemary bush; if you choose to sit there as a couple, you’re guaranteed to meet new drinking buddies before the night’s end. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Upstairs is still homey, yet more private and conducive to a date dinner. The casual vibe is augmented by unfinished, rough-textured concrete walls, wicker chairs, aluminum diner tables and a warm glow illuminating from hanging globe lanterns. 

This is not a trendy, high-end restaurant begging KOLs to bang down the doors; it’s the opposite – an ideal neighborhood hangout in a street filling up once again with chill hangouts. 

It's where you want to go to feel welcome, like you're a part of the family – one that centers around a tatted up, moustache sporting, motorbike riding, boisterous 'nonna' that cooks with nothing but passion, since that's the only way he knows how. 

Price: RMB120-250
Who’s Going: Chef Lucky Lasagna fans, the Jing’an foodie contingency, Roman cuisine lovers
Good For: Date nights, friendly catchups that won’t break the bank, casual Italian cravings

See a listing for BambinoRead more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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