Bottega: Grabbing a Slice of Shanghai's Napoli Pizza Action

By Sophie Steiner, January 31, 2023

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The Place

Making the leap from Beijing, Neapolitan pizza and pasta joint Bottega has landed in the old Beef & Liberty spot in the KWah Center on Xiangyang Lu.

It’s decked-out to the nines, trendy, full of live music nightly and ready to make a name for itself in Shanghai. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Co-owners and brothers Paolo and Daniele Salvo man the kitchen and the wine / restaurant floor, respectively, with co-partners Nana Shinohara as the chairman and David Connolly running creative.

After successfully opening Bottega to the pizza loving masses in Beijing in 2014, the team has got this recipe down to a science, further expanding in 2017 to a second location, and opening three other restaurant concepts (Forno, El Barrio and Daruma) around the capital since then. 

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Now, it’s time to make the jump south to Shanghai with a bigger, better, more badass 100-seater.

The Food

As one would expect from a Napoli restaurant, pizza is the star of the show – and not just by local standards; Bottega has received a slew of accolades over the years from international culinary authorities.

As surely Asia’s most awarded pizzeria, Bottega holds the title of Top Pizzeria Asia Pacific, Best Pizzeria China and 14th Best Pizzeria from 50Top Pizza, plus Three Slices from Gambero Rosso – the equivalent of receiving three Michelin stars in the world of Napoli pizzas venues. 

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This is owed to the fact that they’ve been pumping out their pizzas using the same 36-48-hour fermented, 80% hydration dough recipe that’s been passed down for three generations in the Salvo family... dating back to Nonno Salvo, who owned a pizzeria in Naples back in 1928. 

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It’s no shocker that the menu offers a whopping 21 – yup TWENTY-ONE! – pizza options, plus a smattering of noodles, antipasta and desserts.

Oh yeah, and there’s wine. A lot of wine – more than 200 varieties – organized by price and body in a walk-in wine cellar.

There is also all the spritzes and aperitivos you would ever need to convince yourself, by the end of the night, that you’re actually drinking in Naples. 

DSC07790.jpgAmaretto Sour (RMB60) and Negroni (RMB70), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We have extremely high hopes for the new cocktail menu that will launch in early spring – just in time for the outdoor patio to open – as it’s curated by none other than Peter from Beijing’s beloved cocktail bar, Black Moth (RIP).

A bartender’s bartender, Peter knows his way around the world of spirits, and we’ve never had a sipper from him that didn’t have us immediately ordering another round. Get your hopes up; you won’t be disappointed. 

Alright, back to that sublimely cheese-smothered, bubbled-up, crisp dough we know you’ve all been speed reading the first chunk of this article to get to. 

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Let's start at the beginning, and the Bottega (RMB139) – the restaurant’s namesake pizza that embodies Napoli food culture in one bite.

We're talking salt-cured anchovies, roasted cherry tomatoes, a generous sprinkling of mozzarella and an entire, glorious globule of gooey burrata plopped right in the middle.

The chef suggests slicing the ball o’cheese open and slathering it across the entire pie, a creamy balance to the anchovy’s briny salinity. 

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One of Italy’s most underrated meats, mortadella is sliced paper thin and fanned out across that signature 5 Stagioni flour-based crust on the Mortazza (RMB109).

More mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano are anchored to the ‘za by a shmear of made-fresh-daily pesto.

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Our judge of any Naples pizza is the Diavola (RMB99) – a classic on every menu featuring spicy salami, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and... that’s it!

The key is in the simplicity, each humble ingredient allowed to speak for itself. 

And Bottega’s version sings. A criss-cross mosaic of spicy meat, a pull of melty cheesy, a scorched yet chewy dough edge – it’s a symphony of flavors that is music to our ears. 

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Beyond the pizza, the rest of the menu features just as many heavy hitters.

The Frittatina Pancetta e Tartufo (RMB49) is the Neapolitan fritter lovechild of a creamy bucatini “mac’n’cheese” and a mozzarella stick. Plus there’s truffle, and bacon, and mozz, oh my! 

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Naples doubles down when it comes to the fried goods, of which there are an astounding array on every street corner.

Case in point, the Calzone Fritto (RMB99) – a deep-fried behemoth of puffed-up gluttony, clocking in at roughly the size of a newborn baby in length and weight, stuffed to the gills with ricotta, mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and oh-so much Italian imported salami. 

Buckle up for this one, you’re most definitely going to need a co-pilot. 

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DSC07799.jpgCarpaccio di Manzo Wagyu (RMB139), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Like something an Italian nonna would make, the Rigatoni alla Genovese (RMB89) is literally that – chef Paolo’s nonna’s recipe.

Six-hour slow-cooked chunky beef ragu is reduced down with red onion and scooped heftily across pasta tubes. 

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Expertly al dente, homemade chitarra cut Spaghetti con Polpette (RMB99) is scattered with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and meaty licks of Calabrian ‘nduja meatballs for a final nip of heat.

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The Polletto Arrosto con Salsa Verde (RMB139) sees local yellow spring chicken – prized for its higher fat content – first boiled, then dried, before being roasted in the oven for that shatteringly crisp skin and meat texture that spans from succulent to juicy to melting.

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On the dessert front, there’s Italian go-tos like Tiramisu, Panna Cotta and Affogato, but we opted for their signature Tortino al Cioccolato (RMB59), a molten chocolate lava cake filled with an oozing white chocolate center and topped with vanilla gelato.

It’s a showstopper, a heart-stopper and must-order for all diners. 

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The hero of all Italian desserts, the Semifreddo alla Nutella (RMB59) sees homemade Italian vanilla semifreddo with crushed hazelnuts with a liberal dribble of Italy’s pride and joy – Nutella.  

The Vibe 

The space is loud: bold lighting; in-your-face retro colors; disco balls; glowing 1950’s-themed ‘advert’ posters for Italian F&B brands; a brightly lit open kitchen featuring a racecar red Stefano Ferrara pizza oven; an entire wall homage to ‘The King’ Diego Maradona, who put Naples on the football map; and an illuminated DJ booth.

But the focal point is the lustrous bar, a could-be backdrop for a Campari and Aperol commercial. It’s prideful, demonstrative, frenetic and borderline excessive.

We love it. 

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Expect the DJ booth to be bumping every Wednesday through Saturday, lunch and delivery to launch soon, and, come summer, the already crowded space to be spilling out onto the wraparound terrace at all hours of the day and night. 

Price: RMB100-250
Who’s Going: Italian food fans, those with their finger on the pulse of the Beijing food scene, the Xuhui drinking contingency, lovers of the Naples ‘za
Good For: Italian dinner into dancing, all-hour feeds, casual dining, carb-loading

Bottega, 1/F, 101B, K.WAH CENTRE, 108 Xiangyang Bei Lu, by Huaihai Zhong Lu 襄阳北路108号101B嘉华中心1楼, 近淮海中路.


Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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