Aside from the food, one aspect that can make or break a restaurant for me is the lighting. It isn't so important for a meal with friends or a solo dinner, but it can have a serious impact on a date. It's hard to flirt under strip-lighting; everyone looks best in candle-light.
Considering this criterion, Scarpetta is the perfect date spot. Its softly-lit interior, complete with nebulous flickering candles, is designed for romance - to the extent that the people who visit for birthday parties or to tap away on their laptops seem incongruous. I don't even know why they have large tables. Scarpetta is for couples.
We ordered a range of things to share, and we all ate far too much. To start: the roasted eggplant, a mushroom and walnut soup, venison carpaccio, fried calamari and a charcuterie board. This was mostly good (particularly the soup), with a few slightly annoying shortcomings. The calamari, for example, was a pile of deep fried vegetables with a very occasional baby octopus. I didn't have a single piece of calamari. It came with a very good aioli, though, to be fair.
We didn't try the mains, focusing instead on pasta and pizza options. Scarpetta's famous bone marrow dish was... good? I wouldn't say it was worth travelling more than a few metro stops for, but it's predictably rich and satisfying. I also enjoyed the fennel sausage pasta, the 'nduja pizza and the lobster linguine, although my friends weren't convinced by the flavour balance and spiciness of the meat dishes.
We didn't have dessert for several reasons: we were slightly underwhelmed by the mains, we'd filled up on carbs, and my friend had brought a dessert wine anyway (the management gamely allow you to BYOB, but only if you buy a bottle of theirs first). They looked good, though - as neatly presented as the other courses we tried.
In total, we paid just over 500rmb each for the meal. This is comparable to a number of other higher-end places in the city, but it seemed excessive considering we only bought one bottle of wine. Scarpetta is a good date option, doubtless, but only if you don't mind splashing out for Italian classics that don't quite sing.
SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.