Sugared & Spiced

pâtissière in paris, now shanghai

[Shanghai] Il Nascondiglio

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Il Nascondiglio

Add: 311 Xiangyang nan Lu, near Yongjia Lu / 襄阳南路311号,近永嘉路
Tel: 3461 2036 or 13166014282
Hours: 7:00pm onwards
Price: 100 RMB/person (guinea pig price), 250 RMB/person (regular price)
Visited: Feb 2011

I received an e-mail last week about a “Venetian private dinner” trial run at a new Italian restaurant, which instantly piqued my interest. When we arrived outside the “restaurant”, note the quotation marks, I knew I was in for an adventure. There was no sign, no lights, just an ominous-looking doorway beyond which nothing but darkness ensues. Dare we walk in? Oh, why not.

After climbing two flights of stairs in the pitch dark with nothing to guide us other than dim cell phone backlights, we managed to arrive at Il Nascondiglio. The name, “the hideout” in Italian, is really quite appropriate for the hidden venue. Fabrizio and Ting, the chef and hostess, greeted us at the door and ushered us into a cozy old Shanghainese home decorated with antique pieces here and there (including a piano from the 1920s).

We soon found out that Fabrizio is actually not a professional chef. This Italian man has a PhD in developmental cognitive psychology and is currently doing his post-doc in London, but his passion for cooking and sharing good food resulted in this private dining venture. Apparently Fabrizio and Ting have been doing this in London for a while, and decided to continue with the same concept in Shanghai after Ting moved here for work.

The first appetizer, Bruschette Classiche, chunks of sauteed tomatoes on top of crispy baguette, was simple but delicious, as was the second appetizer, Rotolini di Melanzane Ripieni, a slim piece of sauteed aubergine wrapping halved tomato and Italian ham.

Farfalle ai Funghi al Gin, floppy pieces of butterfly pasta intertwined with an abundance of plump and juicy porcini mushrooms. A slight hint of gin and generous shavings of fresh sheep cheese made the pasta all the more enticing.

By this point I knew that this dinner would take hours. Fabrizio was managing the cooking all by himself, and there was a good 20-minute wait in between each dish. We really didn’t mind though, since we were in good company and having a great time sipping on the complimentary Italian wine Ting generously poured for us.

The main course, Arrosto di Manzo (roast beef), was served with accompanying sides of Patate in Tecia (pan-fried potatoes with bacon), Peperonata (stewed bell peppers), and Piselli Triestini (typical green peas). Fabrizio explained that he’s been preparing the beef since the morning, first punctuating the meat with holes then stuffing them with garlic, which made the meat a little drier but so much more flavorful.

Though Fabrizio originally intended to make a chocolate mousse for dessert, he wasn’t able to find the right ingredients, which was understandable since he’s only been in the city for three weeks and hasn’t found his way around yet. Instead, he made us Palacinche (sweet crepes), with the options of chocolate, marmalade, and classic (butter and sugar). I chose the chocolate crepe, which was simply spreaded with Nutella.

Dining at Il Nascondiglio is a unique and intimate experience. The old Shanghainese lane house setting and the rustic home-styled cooking made it a lot more like eating at a friend’s home, which seems to be exactly what Fabrizio and Ting are aiming at. Fabrizio is now back in Italy but will return to Shanghai in March. I’m curious to see how this private dining concept, rarely before seen in Shanghai, will develop with the city scene.

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Written by sugarednspiced

February 2nd, 2011 at 2:16 pm