Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gemma Restaurant….Italian Style Food in Shanghai

Hello and welcome back! This blog post will be another food review (seems I’ve been writing a lot of those lately); specifically, my adventures in Italian food. There is currently a food and beverage explosion going on in Shanghai with a slew of new restaurants (that are not Chinese cuisine) opening up just about every week. 

I was interested in this restaurant after reading several favorable reviews on expat websites and magazines. I was also craving a good pizza and Italian style dessert and according to the reviews, I would be in good hands. Ironically, one of my foodie friends was also interested in this restaurant, so we invited some more people along for a nice group outing. 

Another reason I wanted to try this restaurant was the location. Gemma’s is located in the trendy Former French Concession (or FFC for short) right on Donghu Lu. Donghu Lu is also home to a slew of popular restaurants and nighttime entertainment venues all of which are a stone throws away from my home. So, I had no real reason to skip out and miss this opportunity.

First Impressions:

When I arrived at the restaurant, it was the late evening and it was very, very quiet. There were only two or three other tables of people; but, things picked up as the night went on.  From the moment I arrived, the service staff was very attentive and they helped me with my belongings and seat(I may be off crutches but I walk with a noticeable gimp after all). Overall, the restaurant looked clean and very inviting. The tables were set nicely with wine and water glasses and silverware. Instead of a closed off kitchen, the kitchen was nice and open so you could look at the cooks preparing the food. There was even a nice, big wood fired oven for cooking the pizzas. I was very pleased with the set up and I couldn’t wait to see the food choices that Gemma had to offer.
Watching the pizza magic happen

Food and Drinks Menu:
I was shocked when the waiter placed a menu in front of me as soon as I sat down which is not so common in Shanghai. Typically, a restaurant will give you one menu per table and one must request additional menus or, you and your guests share the one menu and you patiently wait your turn to look at it. 

Gemma’s specialty is its pizza (hence the nice oven) so it was no shock that they offered 10 different pies. Customers can choose from a list of pizzas labeled Red (tomato), White (alfredo), or Green (pesto) list.  You can also build your own pizza and pay for the toppings individually.
Besides pizza, there were several antipastis and a selection of desserts.  There was also an extensive wine and beverage list (for those non-wine drinkers).
Pizza List

Salad Antipasti list

After a bit of deliberating,  we ordered two different salads from the antipasti list: The “Rughetta “ salad which was a mix of arugula, shredded parmesan, radishes and chives and the “Delle Alpi” which was a mix of lettuce, cherry tomato, shredded carrot, fennel, radish, cucumber  pine nuts and pomegranate seeds (wooo that was a lot!).  In terms of drinks, I settled for water instead of wine and the rest of my group ordered a variety of different drinks.

For the main course, we would try two different pizzas: one from the red list and one from the green list. We got the “Serafina” which was tomato sauce, mushrooms, stracciatella cheese, and prosciutto.  For the second pizza, we ordered one that was simply called “Pesto” which was pesto sauce, stracciatella cheese, arugula and prosciutto.

First Bite:
Before our antipasti arrived, we were given a side order of bread that consisted of long crunchy breadsticks and regular baguette. The breadsticks were nice and crunchy and they paired well with a little olive oil. The baguette was also equally good; nice and soft on the inside with a crisp exterior.
After having a couple of portions from the bread basket, the salads arrived at our table. 
Bread basket!
 The “Rughetta” looked simple, but it was truly love at first bite! The arugula and cheese tasted fresh and a little olive oil gave it an even better flavor. Apparently, the “Delle Alpi” was just as good (I never tried it). We polished the salads off in a matter of minutes just before the pizza main courses arrived. 
The "Delle Alpi" salad

The "Rughetta" simple yet tasty
 The “Pesto” pizza arrived at our table first.  Hot and presliced, the pizza was accompanied with salt and pepper,  olive oil and chili oil, one of my favorite oils for pizza. Each member of the group took a slice and after those first few bites we agreed it was delicious! The base was cooked well and the crust was chewy, but not too soft.  The pesto sauce was tasty and the cheese had a nice and creamy flavor. You could just taste the authenticity of the ingredients which were far superior than the waxy stuff that appears in some other pizza restaurants in Shanghai. 
The "Pesto" Pizza...such a beauty!
After several moments, the “Serafina” pizza arrived and we dove into that one. Upon the first bite, we noticed that the base seemed a bit too doughy, almost like it was not cooked through. This gave the pizza an overall “O.K.” and we equally agreed the “Pesto” pizza the clear winner. 
The "Serafina"...not bad, just need a bit more time!
After our meals, we decided to go all out and order desserts. Each of the people in the party ordered something different: Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, Chocolate Mousse and for myself, I ordered the Nutella Calzone with vanilla gelato.
The Panna Cotta

The Tiramisu

Chocolate Mousse
After a 15-20 minute wait (which was more than reasonable) the desserts arrived and everyone was pleased with their choices. In fact, some of the choices (the tiramisu and the panna cotta) were maybe a bit too rich. My Nutella calzone was delicious. It arrived nice and warm filled with almonds and Nutella on the inside. It was a big portion so I would recommend splitting it next time.
The Nutella Calzone...I could have this again!

Overall Thoughts and Score:
I would give Gemma a solid 4/5. The only reason why it lost was a point was due to the undercooked “Serafina” pizza; otherwise, I really enjoyed the food and service here and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back again.
I admit that this restaurant is a bit on the pricy side (I ended up pay 190RMB with no drink) so make sure to have enough cash.

 Next time, I’ll make sure to order another kind of “Green” pizza and I will make sure to split that Nutella Calzone with a friend!

Thanks again for reading and tune in next time!

20 Donghu Lu,
near Huaihai Zhong Lu

Metro: South Shanxi Road (Lines 1,10)

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