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First Bite: Palatino

Sep 29, 2014 | 15:38 Mon
This little Italian joint opened up on a stretch of Changle Lu recently, offering Roman-style cuisine and room for about 30 people to sit over two floors. It's helmed by three guys who were part of the original crew behind Bella Mia, and it retains the laid-back atmosphere and casual, friendly service of its older cousin.

The menu is reassuringly authentic: lots of pecorino cheese, buffalo mozzarella, salami, carpaccio and seafood, with a page of pasta and another of pizza, which all come out of a brick oven on the first floor.

The pizzas are reassuringly unambitious: combinations of classic ingredients like parma ham, porcini mushrooms, grana cheese, artichokes and basil, with not a whiff of duck breast or seafood or any other shudder-inducing things that have been sprinkled on a crust in some of Shanghai's frillier restaurants. Prices are solid, too, for this quality of ingredients: 78rmb for a margarita, 98rmb for most others.

The secondi piatti features a six meat dishes and five seafood. The owners source their lamb and most of the beef from Mongolia, with two cuts of steak from Australia. Seafood runs through squid, tuna, sea bass, shrimp and scampi. We tried the shrimp which came grilled with rosemary, served on a bed of artichoke. Only four shrimp, but they were monsters, and the dish was enough to share. Prices of the mains rise steeply -- think 200-400rmb per dish. That felt a little too high for the decor. Palatino gives off the air of a laid-back, Italian trattoria, with chatty, backslapping staff and inexpensive wine, not a place where you'd go to drop USD50 on a steak.

Nevertheless, the pasta and the pizza hold up well, with other stuff there if you're feeling splashy. And it's finer and more romantic than Bella Mia, which was always a little too cheap and friendly to take a date. Look for it on that stretch of Changle Lu between Maoming and Shanxi, wedged between a tattoo parlor and some strange clothes shop. It's quite a noisy stretch of the street, but Palatino still feels cozy as it's set back from the street and insulated by a little greenery. Full listing here.

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