Owners Alex Fan and Dean Xie wanted to create an affordable Italian Restaurant with original flavor that would cater more to Chinese tastes. The result is Italian on testosterone: souped-up pastas with super-sized seafood and meat portions, and pizzas plastered with everything from shell-on jumbo prawns to Hawaiian pineapple and ham. But we’d be lying if we said we didn’t enjoy the ride. Fresh ingredients, hand-made noodles, and the talented Zhang Lex of Mr. Willis manning the kitchen are key to pulling off what could’ve otherwise been another unfortunate example of East-West Frankenfusion.
Stylized white chairs, ridged and rounded like seashell pasta, and a checkerboard lighting scheme with alternating shadows and spots of hot white light, give the interior a bit of a Clockwork Orange vibe. An open kitchen allows you to see your pastas and pizzas in the making. Staff seem slightly clueless about the menu, but score points for maintaining a serviceable manner throughout the misunderstandings, instead of dissolving into typical embarrassed giggles.
You go for the scratch-made pastas, of which there’s a diverse selection, from the standard spaghetti bolognese (68RMB) to a hulked-out pasta sampler with four kinds of pasta – rigatoni with seafood sauce, spaghetti, carbonara linguine, fusilli with pesto sauce. Oh, and a whole roast snapper. There’s also turbot with a bulbous, black capunti pasta and and dried strips of fish (128RMB). Both are bizarre but decent mashups. Though we’re not sure how they cater specifically to the Chinese customers, any more than to us Americans who like eating overkill (but admittedly delicious) combos of onion rings, potato poppers, steak, and fish on one plate. More Chinese would be if they brought your risotto 20 minutes after you’d finished your mains.
If the fish-pasta platters are too gargantuan, head up the seafood linguine with mussels, shrimps, onions, garlic and white wine (78RMB). Don’t mind the bulky, bland mussels, they’ll be forgotten upon twining the superb linguine around your fork and slurping it down. Starting at 68RMB, pasta prices seem standard, but generous proteins and home-made noodles make them a bargain.
Pizzas range from the classic margherita priced at an agreeable 58RMB to the New Zealand lamb pizza (108RMB) to the Hawaiian (RMB78) to a prawn + shrimp pizza (158RMB) with both shell-on and naked shrimp and avocado.
Those in an entrée mood should go for the Hungarian beef goulash with onions, tomatoes, green peppers and, of course, paprika (88RMB). Why goulash on an Italian menu? Possibly to ape the Chinese format of featuring foods from different regions on one menu, ie. Sichuan dishes on Shanghai menus and vice versa, or a Hong Kong menu’s section for Western steaks and chops. Reasons became immaterial upon biting in. It was meaty, warming, and we liked it.
Cap off the night with a pâte à choux (32RMB) made by Institute Nationale de la Boulangerie Patisserie graduate Alexander Sun.
Pascasa isn’t for those seeking the subtleties of Italian cuisine. It’s about satisfying cravings, even ones you didn’t know you had before going (jumbo prawn and lamb pizzas), and for an affordable price. Seeing as too many Shanghai Western spots try and shake things up solely to seem cutting edge and charge high prices, how refreshing to have a place be creative for the customer’s sake. There are also enough fresh ingredients and expertise in Pascasa’s kitchen to prevent this the culinary joyride from going off the rails.
Pascasa – Fifth Floor, 818 Plaza, No 503, Nanjing Xi Lu, near Wujiang Lu, Jingan district (静安区南京西路818号818广场5楼, 近吴江路). Tel: (0)21-6052-1980. Hours: 10am-10pm.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].