Right when we walked into Issimo, the classy new Italian restaurant at the Jia boutique hotel, we wanted to fall in love with the place. Dressed in brick and wood and adorned with dark leather furniture, Issimo seduced us with its warm beauty. The staff seemed to be in on the game as well, lining up near the large and lively open kitchen to greet us as we walked in.
Immediately after we were seated in the main dining room, the servers pounced with a creepily jubilant smile. Conceptualized by Salvatore Cuomo of The Kitchen, Issimo represents the Puxi extension of the celebrity chef’s authentic and hearty Neapolitan cooking. We had been told to expect family-style portions, and indeed most of the mains on the menu were priced for two (although there is an option for single portions). Soaking up the gorgeous atmosphere, the lively and attentive staff, and the ostensibly satisfied looks on the faces of our neighboring diners, we braced ourselves for gorging on mounds of deliciousness.
We were just a tad bit disappointed. We started off with the assorted appetizers (178 RMB) platter from their “anti-bar” showcase, which was light and brisk and not too particularly memorable. We moved onto the seafood risotto (168 RMB) and the ruote with gorgonzola and ham and walnuts (178 RMB), both served in copper pans and definitely large enough to satisfy an additional blogger or two. While the flavors were tightly balanced and satisfying, both the rice and the pasta were undercooked slightly beyond our tolerance for al dente, adding seconds of grainy annoyance to each bite. A side of spinach was caked with a bit too much sea salt, and was pretty much ignored the whole night.
That being said, there was plenty to admire on the plates of our neighbors. We stared at the platters of cured Spanish and Italian hams parked next to the delectable looking wood-fired pizzas (138 RMB), and couldn’t help but think to ourselves that we’d be back very soon. The sorbet and the line-up of staffers that bid us a fond adieu pretty much sealed the deal.
Issimo – 2/F 931 Nanjing Xi Lu near Taixing Lu (南京西路931号2楼, 近泰兴路) Tel: 6287-9009, Hours: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6:30pm-midnight
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.