This many come as a shock to some of you, but some of us here at Shanghaiist can be, well, a little cynical. No! Surely not, you say! Ah, but true, my friend, but true. For example, we never took much notice of the restaurant Nuova Vita, near the intersection of Fuxing Lu and Ruijin Er Lu. It had existed pretty much since we moved to the city, and considering its age and curious lack of hype, we had it pegged as traditional Shanghainese Italian fare—canned sauce, rubbery noodles, with prices fit only for a Roman Pontiff.
Wow, were we wrong.
Our initial suspicions melted away last night when we were met at the door by—wait for it—an Italian! Right at the front! A positive sign. The menu had the usual dishes, but with flare. The pesto was made on site. The Buffalo Mozzarella was imported from Italy, as was, apparently, the chef himself. Dishes like braised Oxtail and Veal Shoulder stood out, as did a number of rustic Italian dishes like Caciucco Livornese, a seafood soup.
Shanghaiist had the pesto with ziti, while our friend ordered the Oxtail. They were excellent. The pasta was the very definition of al dente, with the pesto possessing a garlicky earthiness that was satisfying on a cool Autumn evening. Our friend’s Ox was very well endowed indeed—his dish was huge! After working four years in an Italian restaurant during high school, Shanghaiist knows what good Italian is, and this was it. The tomato sauce was first rate: fresh, slightly spicy, with enough chunkiness to make it feel homemade. The Oxtail itself unfortunately was slightly overdone, but very good nonetheless. The prices were reasonable—55 RMB for the pesto, and about 80 for the Oxtail. The meal ended with a round of Schnapps on the house. Yummy. Total bill for an appetizer, two dishes, wine, and unlimited free water: about 400 RMB. The prices are about on the same level as other restaurants around town like A Future Perfect, Pasti, and 239. The service was extremely attentive, and eager to please.
Nuova Vita is not a showy place—it has a rustic charm, like the place you regularly stop by on your way home from work in a quiet suburb of Milan. That’s why we love it. In a city where even Diner Food seems to have attitude, it’s a relaxing, thoroughly enjoyable experience to find great food without the hassle. There’s even a case out front where you can buy the chef’s pestos, breads, and even the Buffalo Mozzarella from Italy.
Just like our mother said, don’t judge a book by its cover. Nuova Vita is the real deal, and is definitely is worth a visit. Shanghai is a funny place—it kicks your ass a dozen times over, and just when you’re about to throw in the towel, it reveals a great new find like this. Perhaps that’s why we love it here.
Nuova Vita can be found at 579 Fuxing Zhong Lu, at Ruijin Er Lu. 复兴中路579号 近瑞金二路. Tel: 6474-1887.