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Mama Mia! Try the pasta

THE Italy Pavilion is one of the few Expo pavilions that dedicate an entire room to display the culture of food and the country's hallmark products.

A large model of an olive tree stands right in the middle of the room, its branches spreading all the way to the ceiling. Sheaves of wheat hang from the ceiling and more than 100 bottles of wine are displayed behind glass on shelves covering an entire wall. The wall opposite to the wines is filled with all kinds of pastas.

This shows how fine dining is a significant part of the pavilion, known as the "City of Man." Visitors can have a taste of these products at Caravaggio, the pavilion's restaurant, on the second floor. It is one of the few pavilion restaurants that doesn't have its own separate entrance. You have to line up for the pavilion to get into the restaurant.

Nevertheless, the lines haven't stopped Chinese enthusiasm and curiosity about the restaurant, and especially the pastas. With a capacity of 244 seats, Caravaggio has been selling more than 2,000 pasta dishes every day, according to the chef Paolo Ferrua.

The restaurant is divided into two sections - a 140-seat buffet and a 104-seat a la carte area. The buffet offers a few kinds of set menu. A pasta set, the most popular choice, contains a starter, a pasta dish, a dessert and a drink, and costs 170 yuan (US$25). The dishes are selected from the a la carte menu.

The menu offers two to four choices for each course - starter, pasta, meat and dessert. It offers almost all the trademark products - cheese, tomatoes, olives, pastas and wine.

The bresaola, arugula and Parmesan salads are fresh and flavorful. The beef tagliata on a bed of arugula is served with baby tomatoes and zucchini.

"We offer a traditional Italian taste and adjust the menu frequently depending on what we can get. With limitations on food and logistics, it is quite difficult to arrange the menu as freely as in a normal restaurant," said Ferrua.

Ferrua said the kitchen made many accommodations to the Expo rules while trying hard to maintain quality. For example, zafferano (saffron), often used in Italian cuisine, is not allowed in the site because it is for prescription use in China, he said.

Ferrua also tried hard to revive canned olives - the only kind permitted on the site. After a complicated process of cleaning and adding olive oils, the much improved olive is a pleasing addition to many dishes.

The chef from Rome quit his job in a luxury hotel to come to Shanghai. He hopes to open his own restaurant in the city after the Expo.

"As a chef, I would rather pick all products from fresh grocery markets on the street, but I just can't do it here, so we have to accommodate to these rules," said Ferrua. He is adjusting the menu for summer, adding more fish, which are lighter and easier to digest.

Da Marco Delights

With spectacular views and authentic Lombardy cuisine, Da Marco is another excellent Italian restaurant with a relaxed setting, the perfect venue for ending a tiring but enjoyable Expo day.

On Expo Road at the Pudong site, the two-floor 600-square-meter restaurant features a homey dining environment with a spectacular view from its second floor terrace. The Lupu Bridge is on the left and the Nanpu Bridge on the right.

Chef patron and owner Marco Barbieri from Varese in the Lombardy region has built his reputation on conveying typical cuisine. The menu draws from mama's cooking, with more than 70 dishes on offer, from homemade pastas and pizzas to sizzling steaks and grill-fired fish.

Sunday brunch is one of the best values in the Expo Village. At just 188 yuan, it includes free flow Prosecco win and soft drinks. A highlight is the pasta section where a chef prepares pasta to each guest's taste.


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