It seems like every other day there is a new deal from one of Shanghai's high-end hotels hoping to entice elusive weekend diners with the lure of an all-you-can-eat gorge.
As most hotels have taken a hit in the downturn on guest numbers but still need to fill restaurant space, canny restaurant-goers can snaffle a great deal, satiating that particular cuisine craving at bargain prices.
For those looking to delve into Italy's culinary delights, Le Royal Meridien's Italian-style restaurant and pizzeria, Favola, has two of the crown jewels of the country's cuisine at knock-down prices.
For those who like the comfort of knowing the can always go back for more, Favola lets you get your fill of all the pizza and pasta you can eat for just 138 yuan (US$20.20).
This includes free-flow soft drinks, coffee and tea. For an extra 25 yuan, there's free-flow local beer.
On the eighth floor of the hotel, with a sweeping view over the People's Square, Favola's open kitchen with blazing pizza ovens sets a stylishly Italian atmosphere.
The weekend lunch deal gives diners an extensive salad and dessert bar and a comprehensive choice of pizzas and pastas to choose from.
With an eye to the local market, where Chinese diners have embraced pizza and pasta as some of their favorite Western dishes, Favola offers some innovative Oriental twists.
The Chashao pizza boldly blends the traditional Italian paring of tomato and mozzarella with roast pork loin and a Chashao sauce.
Other Chinese fusion choices include a fiery chicken Shichannes pizza, with the tongue-numbing Sichuan pepper corns and the Anatra Beijingnese with roast duck paired with a sweet mushroom honey hoisin cilantro sauce.
The experimental fusion continues in the pastas with the mapo-style tofu combined with a bechamel sauce and mozzarella cheese. The menu also looked to Shanghai's rich local cuisine for inspiration with a sweet-and-sour pork rib pizza.
For lovers of more traditional Italian flavors, the menu offers the timeless simplicity of the Margherita, the anchovy-driven saltiness of the Romano and the robust Capricciosa, with black olives, ham and artichokes.
Whether going for the more experimental offerings or sticking to some old favorites, the pizzas are one of the strong points of the lunch deal.
The pizza base is a well-executed traditional thin, light Italian crust that will make pizza-lovers want to go back for more. Diners can combine up to three different choices on the one pizza.
Refreshingly, the menu has a real dash of flare for an all-you-can-eat deal, ensuring an interest level that will entice diners back for a second try.
For those with a sweet tooth, the dessert buffet is a highlight. The petite creme caramels looked so good, many expert buffet handlers snapped them up early for a sweet entree. You'll want to leave room for a traditional tiramisu and Italian-style ricotta cheese cake to complete the meal.
As part of the deal, diners can get one of Favola's excellent Italian-style gelatos for nearly half price. They are to die for. While a variety of flavors are on offer, our waistline-expanding choice was a fantastic coffee ice cream construction.
Resting atop Italian biscuit wafers and a dark pool of fresh espresso coffee, the gelato sundae was a finger-licking finish, requiring a restorative stroll through People's Park to work off some self-indulgence.
The good value at Favola is not just limited to weekends, with the eatery offering a taste of Italy on weekdays with its Buonissimo set lunch, with two courses coming in at 135 yuan and three courses costing 155 yuan. All lunch deals include a 15 percent surcharge.
Address: 8/F, 789 Nanjing Rd E.
Hours: noon to 2:30pm
Tel: 3318-9999 ext 7778