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When we heard that Da Marco was opening a new location in Xujiahui, it was the most exciting news we'd heard in a long time. Already, Da Marco's main location on Dongzhu An Bang Lu has been serving up Shanghai's most reliably good Italian and arguably the very best pizza in town. Da Marco's second location on the pedestrian street Yandang Lu was disappointing, so we had our fingers crossed to see if the new Xujiahui branch would be able to live up to the original's standards.

And we're happy to report that the pizza is just as good as the original's -- authentic, thin crust Italian pizza, with toppings that are more quality than quantity, as they should be. We've always been turned off by bad American pizza (Papa John's? No thanks!), so when we saw that Pizza Hut's location next to the new Da Marco had closed up just a few weeks before that latter's entry into the ever-changing back alley at Grand Gateway, we did a little imaginary hi-five to Da Marco winning before they even stepped into the ring.

Da Marco's lunch special is brilliant: a full-size pizza, soup or salad, dessert, and Lavassa coffee for 55rmb. Sweet deal. Or, for 66rmb you can opt for a selection of pastas, the lasagna being the most substantial. While these were all good, and the pizza excellent -- especially with added parmesan and chili oil (ask for it, and when they look confused, just go up to the counter and ask the manager for it, it's worth the effort), -- the entrees (88 RMB) unfortunately didn't turn out so well. Our order of half a chicken, roasted, was raw in the middle. We sent it back, and to their credit, we were offered another entrée without hassle or delay. The veal ossobocco (140rmb) was passable but not exciting, a thin patty covered in a bland cream sauce. Stick with the pizza and pastas for lunch.

Dinner is starting to get busy, which made us hesitate reviewing it publicly and reservations at the Dongzhu An Bang Lu location are hard to come by these days. At Xujiahui, it's the same menu as that location, and while the décor and familial vibe aren't all that enchanting (you're in a mall, remember), most of the food lives up to expectations. Beef-filled ravioli (58rmb) makes for a nice comfort dish, while the whole sea bass-stuffed ravioli with shrimps (75rmb) is a treat for more adventurous diners.

Finally, a word about the wine. Da Marco has a fine selection of bottles, but also one of the best selections of house wines by the glass. For 28rmb there are three whites and three reds available by the glass, so you can properly pair with your courses, and enjoy a variety throughout your meal. We're especially excited about the Primitivo red, and apparently we're not the only ones, as they've had trouble keeping it in stock lately.

We're pleased to have Da Marco on the Xujiahui dining scene, and hope they can continue to raise the bar with pizzas that are hard to beat.

(smartshanghai.com via China Daily February 23, 2008)


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