Here’s the low-down on the latest action-
The Beef: When I first starting writing SmartReviews, this was the first restaurant I wanted to write about. But I didn’t, because I knew I would be too biased. If I were to call myself a regular at any restaurant in Shanghai, this would be it (I don’t even live in the neighborhood. But I do know plenty of hoodrats who treat it like their own back kitchen).
Why? This place feels like home. The staff is welcoming, food is authentic (in a good way), drinks are solid, prices are affordable, and most importantly, people here are fun. The food is reliable - you know what you’re going to get. Their pizza is made in the giant brick oven out back. It's thinner- still dough-y and chewy but you still get a crispy crust. You can taste the difference in the freshness of the ingredients. Aperol spritzes here are made with love. You seriously can’t go wrong here.
The Gang: Plenty of good lookin’ people. You can come here in your workout gear or dressed up in your best LBD, you’ll still fit right in. I would come here for a date, I would come here with a group of friends. Oh, and of course, then there’s the Italians. That’s how you know this place is authentic…and “fair with the prices”. Eh! Baci a tutti!
The Motive: So many! Aperitivo. Aperol Spritzes. Buy one get one Sunday pizza night. 50RMB all burratas on Thurs nights. 40RMB all pastas on Wed nights. 1kg Tomahawk steak deal on Mon nights. Just to stop in and say hi to Jerry, the friendliest bartender in town. Aperol Spritzes. (As the Chinese say, important things must be said three times!)
The Damage: Beers and cocktails around 40RMB. Small bites starting from 38RMB, 12” Pizzas from 75RMB. Dinner and drinks for two around 200-250RMB.
The Down n’ Dirty: Decent, clean. No fuss, no muss.
As a big fan of the Popolo group in Shanghai, I knew I’d be in for a good meal at Bar Centrale. While Gemma is still my favorite choice in the group for Italian, Bar Centrale caters to a more casual crowd with affordable prices and accessible food. I went for the Spinach Pasta (RMB 78), while my friend opted for the Vesuvio Pizza (RMB 90). We also got two orders of Fried Emmental Balls (RMB 48) because we are greedy people who love cheese above all else, but we both conceded that one order probably would have been adequate. I regret nothing.
Aside from our elation regarding the fried balls of cheese, the pizza was a hit with my friend. It was everything you could want in a pizza and hit the spot. All ingredients are fresh from Italy, and you can see the wood fire grill from the main restaurant. The spinach pasta was also tasty, but I do feel like it is something I could make at home. Worse, it’s something I would make at home. And I hate cooking with a firey passion of a thousand burning suns. So, overall, good, but I wouldn’t order it again. There wasn’t anything special about it. Simple can be a good thing, but in Shanghai, flavors need to pop for a restaurant to be remembered.
Overall, I’ll certainly be back for dinner to meet some friends soon. The food was warming, the atmosphere lively, and I enjoyed it. Bar Centrale is where you go when you’re in the need for something aesthetically pleasing but comfortable.
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