Atto Primo is newly opened entry to the Italian food scene in Shanghai. Owned and run by Italian maestro, Gianluca Serafin, Atto Primo boasts traditional Italian flavours in renewed modern plating.
Atto Primo means the first act in Italian, and as it hints, the restaurant is themed around elements of classic theatre.
Many thanks to Gianluca for the generous invitation to taste his marvellous cooking.
As one walked into Atto Primo, you would be welcomed by the same dim ambience that restaurants on the Bund typically have. However, tables are all very well-lit from strategically placed spot lights. The restaurant is huge and spacious, with a large inner open kitchen, as well as a bar which extends to the grill area, featuring the two flaming wood-fired grills.
The restaurant is segmented into various sections for private, casual and group dining which the restaurant labels as the various genres of theatric plays. ie. comedy, etc.
The ambience was a big hit with me, I thought it was very classy but at the same time, low-key. A great place for romance and also million-dollar-deals business dinners.
With all that said, I would gladly give Atto Primo a 9/10 for decor.
As always, since this was an invited hosted tasting, an un-biased score of 7.5 is given.
Atto Primo has a large extensive menu of items and drinks list. My party of 3 got to try a nice variety of items and drinks.
Freshly baked bread were served, as is the case at all reputable Italian restaurants. I never really liked breadsticks though.
Tuscan Chicken Liver Terrine, Home-made Pickles, Pear Compote (88rmb)
A lovely rich-tasting terrine paired with pickles and bread. I especially liked the mini-capers on top, which offset the richness a little bit, and giving an acidic jolt to the taste buds in-between bites. Quite a simple but tasty starter. 8/10
Roasted Seafood Salad, Olive and Lemon Dressed Raw Vegetables
This was one of those ‘Wow’ dishes. Upon serving, we were flabbergasted by the beautiful array of seafood. Featuring scallops, prawns, mussels and octopus. Every piece was fresh and bouncy to the bite. The octopus was cooked till tender as was the scallops. The simple olive and lemon dressing proved a perfect match to season and bind the vegetables and seafood together.
I was starting to see a pattern in chef Gianluca’s food — high quality ingredients cooked simply with simple seasoning. Unlike what many may think, this style of cooking is often harder to pull off, because if ingredients are not paired or cooked well, they will come across as bland tasting.
It was safe to say however, this seafood salad was nothing short of clean and fresh tasting flavours. 9/10
Beef tartare, Baked Shallots and Truffled Goat Cheese
Australian beef tartare with a south-east asian favourite condiment: crispy shallots. Except that back home, we would deep fry shallots until they’re crispy. The ones at Atto Primo were baked.
Surprisingly, this was actually one of the best tasting beef tartare I’ve ever had. Take that with a pinch of salt though, because I didn’t grow up eating beef tartare. However, I liked the fact that this beef tartare was perfectly seasoned and had a nice balance between sweet and tangy.
The shallot crisps added a strong umami flavour and the goat cheese simply rounded all the flavours and element together. The radish slices provided some crunch and freshness to the bites. Superb. 9/10
Parmigiana di Melanze (88rmb)
This was my first time having this dish. It’s like a lasagne baked with egg plants instead of pasta sheets. In fact, that was exactly what it was.
Beautiful to look at, cheesy but not overly heavy. The eggplant with tomato sauce provided a bit of relief in their tanginess. This was good, but not outstanding. 7.5/10
Saffron Risotto, Bone Marrow, Lemon Gremolata and Veal Jus (128rmb)
A large and vibrant plate of risotto. Maybe my palate is not sharp enough, but I’ve always felt that Saffron is overrated; It doesn’t really have a big pronounced flavour for me and in my opinion serves more as a overpriced coloring agent. This risotto has a good al dente texture while still being very creamy. Together with the veal jus, it was lovely and flavourful. The marrow was fat as expected and was made less rich with the lemon gremolata on top.
However, I didn’t feel the synergy between the components as a dish on it’s whole; The components felt quite separate. I always think that a mushroom based risotto is one of the best things ever because there is a perfect synergy between the flavour of mushrooms and rice. For this bone marrow risotto, I felt that perhaps it needed a stronger flavoured component. 7.5/10
Meat-stuffed Piedmont style Agnolotti, Veal Jus and Black Truffle Sauce (168rmb)
This was a huge plate of pasta, and delightfully so. The truffle flavour was fragrant in every piece of pasta and the veal jus sealed the deal. Every piece of agnolotti was perfectly and consistently formed and cooked. Delicious and very filling. 8.5/10
Flank steak, Wagyu M4, 400g (298rmb)
This was the steak on the grill menu that had originally caught my eye. I was especially pleased when I found out that Chef Gianluca had chosen it for me as well. Flank steak is the lesser and cheaper cut used for steak usually, but only seasoned foodies would know that it is actually the best value for money cut in expensive cows (like Wagyu), because the texture of good cows naturally tenderises the otherwise tougher cut. Despite it’s value, the flank is a more flavourful cut than the ribeye and striploin. The catch is that you have to cook it absolutely perfectly.
The flank steak at Atto Primo was served cut, and showed its medium rareness and marbling in all its glory.
My only complaint was the the surface of the steak was not as seared and crusted as I would had liked it to be; I was later informed that it was done this way because most Chinese customers preferred their steaks less ‘burnt’ — Somebody needs to educate them on the Maillard reaction theory.
Anyways, if you prefer your steaks to be more crusted and seared, please let the servers know.
That said, the wood-fired oven’s aroma was evidently present on the steaks; They were tender and grilled beautifully. The fat marbling burst in the mouth with each bite, and it was like orgasm after orgasm in the mouth. (that’s what she said) 9/10
Sauted mushrooms and creamed spinach was served with our steaks and were competently done.
For desserts, we had the chocolate cake and tiramisu. The chocolate cake looked exquisite and expensive.
Breaking a piece apart revealed the smooth and ice-cream-like cake beneath the ganache.
It’s worth noting that the cake was not overly sweet, and the fruit compote beside helped to offset the richness of the chocolate. 8.5/10
Tiramisu with Espresso Gelatin
Unlike many of the Tiramisus around, the one at Atto Primo actually looked more like one, served simply in a cup. The espresso jelly was the novelty part, and a very welcome one, as the clean tasting texture provided a pleasant and complementing contrast against the creamy soft Tiramisu.
Just whatever you do, do NOT inhale when taking a bite of Tiramisu. 9/10
And thus endeth this marvellous feast at Atto Primo. Apologies that not all the pricing of dishes were shown here, because I didn’t take a photo of every page on the menu. However, you would see that actually prices are very reasonable for a top spot on the Bund. For the quality of the food and ambience, it is well worth it.
Atto Primo is certainly a top contender for Italian cuisine not only on the Bund, but Shanghai on the whole. Watch out, Mercato!