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[Radar]: Pizza Marzano

Pizza Marzano is the second of a chain of dignified, stylish pizza shops - an offshoot of Britain's popular Pizza Express.
2010-08-26 12:08:00
Area: Pizza Marzano likes fancy digs. The first shop, opened four years ago, is in Xintiandi. This kid sister is at Shanghai Centre. That's the expat citadel that houses an Element Fresh, Gourmet Cafe, City Shop, Din Tai Fung, Chaterhouse Books, The Portman Ritz-Carlton, a luxury chocolate shop, all manner of consulates, and, once upon a time, a PAUL Bakery -- now being transformed into a Baker & Spice. Across the street is the wedding cake Sino-Soviet Friendship Hall -- the exhibition center. Shanghai Centre anchors this stretch of Nanjing Xi Lu. Plaza 66 is on one side, Jing'an Temple is a five minute walk the other way.

There's all kinds of stuff in this neighborhood: sports bars, swish Shanghainese, expensive office buildings, a heavy concentration of fake watch sellers, and lots of money.

What it is: Pizza. Chain pizza. Chain pizza with dignity. Pizza Marzano is the China face of Pizza Express. They're big in Britain.

Atmosphere: Pizza parlor, 2050. It's sleek. Glass, steel, marble tabletops, contemporary chairing. There is a lot of light in the afternoons. Even more light on the outdoor terrace that extends from the back of the restaurant.

Damage: Pizza Marzano is not complicated. You go there to eat pizza. Maybe a pasta too. If you need to accessorize, there are starters and salads: ping pong balls of baked dough to dip in pesto; antipasto; a tomato & mozzarella salad with good cheese. Most starters are 40-50rmb. Artichoke hearts and antipasto push 100rmb -- pocket change in this area.

Pizzas are of the Roman and Neapolitan persuasion. The Neapolitan is thin, the Roman thinner (and crisper). The pizzaiolos in the blue-and-white striped shirts turn out about thirty different kinds. What's nice about PM is that they've kept their localization segregated.

You've got your basic Margherita with mozzarella and tomato (75rmb; 120rmb with fior di latte mozzarella); you've got an Amatriciana (88rmb), with spiced pomodoro sauce, pancetta, red onions, mozzarella, and basil; and you've got the Sicilia (90rmb), with sausage meatballs and mushrooms. None have corn. None taste like ketchup. None involve mayonnaise.

Separately, you got their Peking Duck pizza (95rmb), with hoisin instead of tomato sauce, and even a gongbao jiding pizza, the Gong Pao (89rmb), with chicken, peanuts, and spring onions.

In the middle, there's American-style pizzas with BBQ beef and cheddar (the Chicago; 92rmb) or pepperoni (the American, 88rmb), pizzas with four cheeses, pizzas with asparagus, roasted artichokes, mushrooms, sweet peppers, tomatoes, olives, garlic and pesto, and, on the special August menu, a tasty pizza with Gorgonzola cheese and artichoke hearts, called the Romolo e Remo (88rmb).

They've got a wine list, too. If you're coming for dinner and you're not single-mindedly focused on the pie, you're probably spending 150-200rmb per person, with a salad or starter or pasta in there as well. Most wines are under 300rmb.

Lunch is a good deal: Monday to Friday, 11am-2pm, 50rmb for a half-size pizza and a soft drink, or 80rmb for a regular-sized pizza, a starter, and a soft drink.

Who's going: A mix of businessmen in dress shirts who work in the building/area, Ritz guests looking for some familiarity, families who live in the towers, and people in Shanghai who like pizza with thin crusts and quality ingredients.