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The best pizza in Shanghai

BEST OF SHANGHAI: ‘One man’s opinion’

My girlfriend thought we moved into our new apartment last June because it was walking distance from the Huangpi Nan Lu subway station and our gym. That’s what she thought. The real reason I thought the location was prime? Its proximity to pizza — the best damn pizza in Shanghai.

I like pizza. A lot. And this Best of Shanghai entry is easy to write. It’s no contest. Da Marco on Yandang Lu has the best pizza in the city. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. (Well, except when the Yankees were up three games to none over the Red Sox in this year’s American League Championship Series. Wait a minute — that doesn’t really help my case.)

Tastes in pizza — like all of these “best of” topics — are very subjective. If you grew up near Chicago, you probably like a thick crust. If you grew up near New York, thin is your thing. If you grew up in Shanghai, I am sorry — your country’s pizza is appalling. And pizza is the greatest thing since sliced, um, noodles.

Go to Da Marco and you’ll see what I mean.

I grew up two-and-a-half hours outside of New York City. So I like my pizza big and floppy, with slices you can fold in half and stuff in your mouth. But more importantly, I grew up two-and-a-half blocks from Sal’s Place, a restaurant on Main Street in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Bloomsburg may be a small town, but Sal’s pizza was all Big Apple — in fact, I’m pretty sure Sal himself had New York mob connections — and I have yet to find anything in the world that tastes as good at 3 o’clock in the morning. Da Marco’s pizza might, but I’m pretty sure they close at 11.

I was lucky to be introduced to Da Marco during my first year in Shanghai. But leading up to that auspicious evening, I had my share of really lousy pizza. One place right across the street from my old apartment seemingly came up with their pizza recipe by looking at photographs — they did the same with their hamburgers, using raw cucumber slices instead of pickles — so it all kind of had the appearance of a pizza, until you bit into it and realized it was all built upon a crust of cornbread. And any pizza connoisseur knows, crust is the key. But maybe it wasn’t supposed to be pizza at all — the sign out front advertised “PLZZA.” So, perhaps that’s what it was.

Da Marco has the crust down pat. And their toppings are pretty normal, too. Not like Pizza Hut here, where your small, overpriced grease pie is likely to arrive with corn on it. Yes, corn. What is it with corn and Chinese pizza? I prefer the last item listed on Da Marco’s pizza menu: mushroom and sausage. No frills. Just a 15-inch pie for 58 kuai. That’s around $7. Not too shabby. And, you know what? You could throw some spinach on that bad boy and have yourself a pretty nice red-and-green Christmas dinner.

Da Marco is not just a pizza parlor, either. It’s a good Italian restaurant. I’ve enjoyed everything I have ordered there. It’s definitely one of my favorite dining spots in the city. The owner looks authentic, too. He kind of reminds me of The Sopranos’ Furio “No Bitcha To Me” Giunta, only with techno-clubbier hair. He wears cowboy boots and sits alone at a table, unsmiling, smoking cigarettes, contemplating … something. He looks like he should either be out riding a horse somewhere or dancing on a bar. But I’m glad he’s at Da Marco. When I returned from The Trip, the restaurant had changed its decor. I was worried that it had changed ownership. I was worried that it had changed pizza recipes. But it didn’t. They just added some tiles to the wall.

So, is Da Marco’s pizza that good? I think so. But maybe I’ve just been away from Sal’s Place for too long.

Da Marco, 62 Yandang Lu, near Huaihai Zhong Lu. Open noon to 11 p.m. Call 021.63855998. There is another location, but I have never eaten there: 103 Dongzhu’anbang Lu, between Zhenning Lu and Jiangsu Lu. Call 021.62104495.

Agree? Disagree? Have a Best of Shanghai tip or suggestion? Leave a comment below.

12.21.2004, 2:33 AM · Best of Shanghai, Food


  1. hey dan,
    i just wanted to say u my compliments about this page. it is great. especially for people who do not know well shanghai. well done;-) just wanted to say, that i do also have a blog, which u probably cant read, cause it is in german, and i do also tell about the city and stuff like this.
    so, again, i will vistit your page often,
    merry xmas,

  2. Ok, what is your sample size? What other venues did you try? The hot dog ‘best” was a gimme, but I need data for the pizza! ( I still shudder at the hot dog I got at a A&W in Beijing)

  3. What is the sample size? I am assuming you don’t mean how much pizza I ate. You want to know how many people I polled to come to my scientific conclusion? Well, the subhead to this category is “One man’s opinion.” The sample size was one — and the decision was unanimous!

    This is totally my opinion. Take it or leave it.

    But the great thing about the internet is that it’s interactive. If someone disagrees with me, they can say so in a comment. If they agree, they can do the same. This helps everyone — find some suggestions here, go out and make your own decision, and tell us about it.

    Maybe someone will suggest a place I hadn’t heard of. I’ll check it out. And if the experience happens to change my opinion — unlikely in the pizza category — I will let you know right here.

    This post can live on f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

    Someone asked if I could do best hamburger for my next Best of Shanghai post. I’ve got some restaurants in mind, but does anyone have any other places they think I should check out before I make my final decision?

    And any other topics you would like to see covered in the future?

    See, this is a democracy — until it’s time for “one man” to voice his opinion.

  4. From the picture, looks like it’s a thin crust. Any idea for good thick crust pizzas? Yes, Chicago has its influence on me. ;) But thanks for the tip anyway, will be sure to check the place out!

  5. have about “best taco in shanghai”?

    there is a mex restaurant called BADLANDS in Jululu, their taco is not bad, and i remember the hardrocks also serves tacos, i don’t know if the hardrocks here provide tacos. oh, don’t forget the taco bell taco, i have waited for about 20 minutes in line to get a seat. which is the best? from my limited samples, the hardrocks taco is no 1, but that hardrock is in malaysia, so i should name it as the best taco in asia :)

  6. Sorry, I was ambiguous about the comment on sample size. What I meant was; “How many different places did you try? And what were the venues?” I’ve tried a bunch (not Da Marcos, though) When I first lived here in Shanghai (98 to 2000), Yellow Submarine was my favorite (as long as you ask for extra sauce), but it seems the quality has dropped since then. But I am still on the search for the perfect ‘Chicago style’ deep dish, as I lived there for 12 years.

  7. I agree on the neverending quest for the ultimate pizza place in Shanghai. Clearly, we need to go out there and teach them something. I’ve been ordering from Yellow Sub for the longest time, having given up on the quest to try and satisfy myself with some moderately good pizza, but will try it out!

    The best of Hot Dog, is clearly, without competition the little Portuguese restaurant on Maoming nan lu. 10kuai hot dog that tastes better than a Montreal/New York hot dog. You can’t beat it. They also happen to have the best meat skewers in town… that’s also a hands down, easy to make decision!

    Now, if you could find the best Guiness in town. A guiness where your spoon actually stays up in the thickness of the wheat!! The perfect student meal, a two in one: a meal and a beer.

  8. Bingfeng,

    Badlands is bad. I’ve been there … once. Did a review of the place for a magazine a while back, the text of which I was planning on posting here for your perusal. But … it’s on my old hard drive, the one that crashed, the one I still can’t access. Trust me when I say it was witty and wonderfully written and hopefully encouraged several people to avoid Badlands. The food is not good, and it is way too expensive for what it is. And I can say the same about most of Shanghai’s “Mexican” offerings.

    I likely will not be doing a Best of Shanghai entry about Mexican food. There just isn’t any good Mexican food in Shanghai. Period. Mexican food is a regular part of the average American’s diet — and it’s not easy to live without it. Gainesville, Georgia — my home for four years before moving to China — had a very, very large Mexican population … and, as the locals might say, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a little taqueria or taco stand. The food was perfect: authentic, tasty, cheap and always available — the way Mexican food should be. My favorite place was open until 4 a.m., which fit a sports writers schedule quite nicely.

    I miss Mexican food … a lot. I’ve tried most of the offerings in town, and they just don’t get it right. But, when I really need something that’s kind of Mexican, I order from Taco Popo. It’s the closest approximation I have found … and, most importantly, it’s cheap. Don’t waste your money anywhere else.

    And, if you are reading this and happen to be a Mexican restaurateur looking for a change of scenery. Move to Shanghai. Please.


  9. Pat,

    I don’t know exactly how many pizza joints I’ve tried in Shanghai. And I don’t remember all of their names. But I’ve tried several. My conclusion is based on two years of intense research.

    As for deep dish, I don’t think I can help you. Not sure if I would know a good one from a bad one … well, unless its crust is made of cornbread.

    If you find one, post the details here so we can all check it out.


  10. Philippe,

    Can you post the name and address of your favorite hot dog joint so we can all give it a try?


  11. true, badlands is not cheap.

    where is taco popo? and do you think papa johns pizza is good, a friend of mine will invite us for a dinner and i find papa johns restaurant in the shopping mall near my home is always crowded, i wonder if we should try it.

  12. Burger? Don’t close your contest without a trip to the Moon River Diner @ #7, 3338 Hongmei Lu (www.moonriverdiner.com). Mexican? Try Mexico Lindo, for the real thing…

  13. #17 not #7, sorry

  14. Bingfeng,

    Taco Popo has a few locations, and they also deliver.

    265 Tongren Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu (6279 4820)
    176 Maoming Nan Lu, near Yongjia Lu (6433 7459)

    Looks like they are also opening another location at the new 88 Tongren Lu complex. Not sure if it is open yet or not. Not sure if this means they will close their other Tongren Lu location or not.

    I have not tried Papa John’s here in Shanghai. In America, it is decent … for delivery pizza. I have been told in Shanghai it is quite expensive. Is that true?


  15. Arby,

    Thanks for the Moon River tip.

    And, you’re right, Mexico Lindo has some tasty food. But, in my opinion, it’s not “the real thing.” It’s some sort of high-end Tex-Mex fusion sort of thing that is more expensive than it needs to be. For me, it’s not worth making the trip out to Gubei … or wherever the hell it is.


  16. thanks, dan.

    sometimes i wonder why i fond of pizza and taco, and i think it’s because these are somewhat similar to chinese pastry, and i lived in northern china as a kid so pastry always attracts me a lot.

  17. ah i have tried papa john’s.

    it’s my favorite so far. a 9 inch pizza costs RMB 50, 14 inch one about 95? i cannot remember. its “shanghai pizza” has pickles in it. *giggles*

    the good ol’ traditional flavors are decent. :)

  18. Pickles?!? Why can’t I ever get pickles on things that actually should come with pickles?

    And 95 kuai for a pizza seems really outrageous. Da Marco’s are around 58.

  19. I checked out Da Marco last night, did not have pizza though. The food was decent, but another Italian restaurant that I tried was better (I am in Shanghai for 2 weeks only). I ll find the name and let you know, I don’t remember right now. It had more reasonable prices too, and I found the service to be better. One thing I hated about Da Marco: those tiles you mentioned, they are awful and they don’t match the place’s style, they give it a cheap look!

  20. Best burger has to be Rendevous - check out the new one on Nanjing Lu
    Pizza…tricky… a little place on Nanchang Lu by Ruijin Lu called BYB Cafe does fairly decent ones and delivers too, tho it may be the proximity to my house that makes me like it so much - oh, and the fact that they obviously have no records or database and spend about 45 minutes every time trying to get my address over the phone, bless.
    Corn, on a pizza? Well, this is China. Have you had the misfortune to pick up a beautiful-looking croissant and find it covered with nasty pork “floss”?? You know what I’m saying

  21. I always thought good pizza in Asia was an oxymoron, but next time I’m in Shanghai I’ll be sure to check these guys out - if I get sick of the local scoff. I’ve been blogging the pizza scene here in Saigon. I think we’re in similar territory. Nice blog.

  22. Pieman,

    For a moment there I thought you meant had a blog solely dedicated to pizza in Saigon … and I thought you were totally crazy. After looking at your blog, I have confirmed you are only partly crazy.


    Rendezvou on Nanjing? That’s good news. Same prices?

    Been to BYB. Thought it was just OK. Definitely a Chinese take on Western food.

    Sure, pork floss is everywhere. It’s dental floss that is in short supply in China.


    You are not the only one to dislike those tiles. I don’t mind them, but I know several people who prefer the previous decor.

    And you didn’t try the pizza?!? Remember, I said it was the best pizza in Shanghai, not the best Italian restaurant. (But, come to think of it, it might win that prize, too.)


  23. OK, I promise I ‘ll try the pizza. In the meantime I remembered that other place, it’s “Isola Bella”, better than Da Marco in my opinion and cheaper too.

  24. Is China Jim still selling those pizzas at yellow Sub? Haven’t had one of those in about seven years! wig

  25. After I read your post I went to Da Marco, and I really enjoyed the pizza. Nice atmosphere and even the street could remind somebody of Italy. However tonight I found the real deal: an Italian restaurant with an Italian chef (Severino, nice guy). The price is comparable to Da Marco, but I have to say (and all who were eating with me agreed) that the pizza is just much better. It’s called Jimix & Seve (names of the owner and chef, respectively), located at 605 Beijing Xi Lu (near Shimen Lu on Line 2). The Web site if interested is www.jimix.com. I know it sounds like I’m shamefully endorsing this restaurant, but they just opened in December and I really want this place to stay in business so I can keep getting such good pizza in Shanghai!

  26. Ah, forgot to mention, another good pizza place/cafe is La Casbah, across from the Shanghai Library on Huaihuai Lu, about a block east of the Brazlian churrascaria. Cheaper than the other places I’ve seen and I think as good as Da Marco, etc…

  27. rendezvous on nanjing has the same prices but found that the portions are much smaller. but nicer atmosphere…

  28. So, I tried pizza from a place called That’s Amore on Taikang Lu based on someone’s suggestion I read here. I was too lazy to head over to Da Marco, and I called That’s Amore to see if they delivered. (Da Marco does not deliver — one strike against them.)

    So, I asked the guy on the phone at That’s Amore two questions:

    Do you deliver?

    Is a pizza big enough for two people?

    He answered yes to both.

    I ordered an olive and mushroom pizza. He said it would cost me 60 RMB and would arrive in around 30 minutes. I hung up thinking, “Not bad.”

    And then the pizza came. Tiny. Four slices. And then the bill came. 80 RMB. A 20 kuai “service charge” to deliver the pizza from a restaurant about a 15 minute walk away … if that.

    I called the restaurant and the guy said he was “sorry” he “forgot” to tell me about the service charge on the phone.

    Ridiculous. 80 kuai for a mini pizza. The pizza tasted OK, but it was so damn small.

    Still hungry, we called Jimix & Seve based on the recommendation above. They don’t deliver. But the guy on the phone said we could order a pizza, they could cook it, and we could come pick it up and take it home. Really? You would do that for us? Wow.

    We called Zentral — a local place with good eats and quick, reliable delivery — and ordered from them.

    Next time I’ll just walk to Da Marco.

  29. I’ve tried the pizzas in Champions (1st floor of the Marriott Hongqiao hotel). Dough and sauce are very close to that ones I’ve tried in the homeland of pizza! Toppings are a bit extravagant, but its possible to make your own choice.

  30. Someone mentioned La Casbah, across Shanghai Library.

    True, I remember their pizza was perfectly decent (thought definitely not on par with what you can have in Italy) and reasonably prices with that.

    Strange as it may seems,the owners are Algerian and speak fluent Mandarin, Arabic, French and English (kind of).

    Only downsize is that they tend to hit on every single Mandarin/Arabic/French/English-speaking single woman who steps inside their otherwise excellent cafe.

  31. Hi Dan,
    I’m the odd expat working at Wu Jiao Chang. Most people around here confuse me one of Fudan Universtiy’s thousands of foreign exchange students. Most of my foreign friends in Shanghai have never made the trek this far north. But this area has some merit, including a wide selection of pizza. I won’t go into every pie, but I’ll tell you my favorite. On Zheng Tong Lu, near Fudan’s new twin towers, you will find Hard Rock Pub (not to be confused with “The Hard Rock Cafe”) This place has some damn good pizza.


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