Helianthus is a little slice of Italy located in a quaint local area just north of Lianhuashan Park. The vibrant and cozy shop mainly focuses on Italian desserts but also serves up delicious pizzas made without additives or preservatives. Diego, who is originally from Northern Italy, has over 36 years of experience in Italian kitchens and spent the past two years working in Shanghai. When speaking about the ingredients in the dough or his favorite desserts to make, you can feel his passion and knowledge really shine through. We are excited to try all the shop’s offerings, because really – who doesn’t love Italian food?
Although the store’s primary focus was on desserts and pastries, shortly after opening they were barraged with requests for pizza and pasta as well. While pasta isn’t an option yet, their 9-inch pizzas come in eight different forms, including vegetarian-friendly margherita (RMB35) and spinach ricotta (RMB35). We decide to try a meaty option, the Salame (RMB50), and a salt-lovers’ favorite, the Romana (RMB35), which contains capers, anchovies and olives. We first tuck into the Salame which comes topped with pepperoni. The thin-crust pizza is simply delightful – and we quickly gobble up the whole pie, including the crust.
Romana and Salame. Image via That’s
Maggie, the manager at Helianthus, tells us about the shop’s health-conscious efforts. Despite the shop recently cutting back on its salt and sugar content by 20-30% on all menu items, taste is definitely not compromised.
If you’re in the mood for a cream-based pizza, you can also ask for the carbonara pizza (RMB50) off the ‘secret’ menu. The consistency isn’t that of a thick liquid, but rather, the cream and egg are nicely baked and settled into one another.
Image courtesy of Helianthus
Now for the best part – dessert! The gelato contains no additives or fillers and is all made in-house by Diego. When we visit, six flavors are available (RMB30 for a single scoop), ranging from creamy classics to tart sorbets. Notable flavors include cheese (made with real cream cheese and parmesan), which may sound disgusting, but is both deliciously creamy and filling. If you enjoy the aromas of passion fruit and prefer something dairy-free, the sorbet version is your top choice.
Image via That’s
Tucked away on the second floor, Helianthus (also the genus under which sunflowers fall), is like a burst of sunshine. The warm, friendly space is casual and unpretentious, a rare place you can find quality food for a fair price. The space is quite large and suitable for families or group gatherings as well. If you like authentic Italian pastries, desserts and pizzas, then this local gem is definitely worth a visit.
Who’s going: foodies in the know, those reminiscing about their Euro trip
Good for: homemade authentic gelato, pastries, personal pies
Nearest metro: Lianhua North (Exit A2), 7 minutes’ walk
Closed Tue, 11am-9pm. See listing for Helianthus.
[Cover image courtesy of Helianthus]