Situated in one of the newly developed buildings close to the Bund, 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana Shanghai aims to bring an original piece of Italy to China. Open since 2012, this restaurant is the second branch of the 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana located in Hong Kong. The Chef Patron, Umberto Bombana, is still based in the original restaurant, but works in close collaboration with the local team and is often in town for special events.
In Shanghai, the kitchen is run by Executive Chef Riccardo La Perna with the help of his two Italian Sous Chefs, Marco Xodo and Alessandro Fornaro, who both have been there since the opening of the restaurant. Together the three of them can count on the help of more than 20 local staff to make sure the authenticity of Italian cuisine is preserved not only through the cooking style, but also by keeping a close eye on the ingredients. There is a well-trained Chinese staff member who makes all the fresh pasta and a dedicated team is in charge to make six different types of fresh bread every day.
To guarantee customers nothing but the highest quality, Chef La Perna puts a great effort into working with as many original products as possible. Even if that means they have to be flown halfway around the world, it does allow Chef La Perna to use genuine ingredients such as French lobster from Normandy, white Alba truffle and artisan mozzarella. For seasonal vegetables however, there is a close relationship with an organic farm just outside town.
On the plate there are no special or molecular techniques to be found and the focus on tradition quickly becomes clear. Portions are rather small but full of taste. The menu is changed regularly and offers a good variety of Italian classics supplemented with some local adaptations. A fine example is the spaghettoni served with bisque of crab and zucchini, the type of pasta Chef La Perna likes to call the “Ferrari of pasta”. Others include traditional Piedmont tortelli with veal shank and ham filling or a duo of short-rib Wagyu beef and pan seared tenderloin served with seasonal vegetables and a red wine sauce.
In the dining room, guests are seated in a slick interior with spacious tables and a view on the iconic Orient Pearl Tower. As usual in China, there are private dining rooms available as well as a stylish bar that serves top notch Italian cocktails. Further inside the restaurant there are two large wine cellars, one for red wine and one for white and sparkling wine. The latter one can be seen from the dining room and is also used as an aging room for a selection of premium ham and cheeses. Food and Beverage Director Gian Luca Fusetto is the man in charge of the content and to add new gems he still travels to Italy a few times a year.
All in all, 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Shanghai lives up to its mission of being an Italian bastion in China. The whole venue breathes Italian taste, from the cocktails at the bar to Chef La Perna greeting every single guest at the table. The respect for traditional taste combined with the overall flair clearly makes this restaurant the number one Italian spot in town.
Written by Sebastiaan