I wrote and published this a few days ago. But then I felt unhappy. I had completely dismissed the place as a fake on the basis of a few publicity leaflets and a visit to the website of their Nanning branch. As I pointed out at the time, I had never actually eaten there.
So I decided to correct or substantiate my statements by visiting the place for an experimental meal.
I’ve mentioned this place before. It is a restaurant on the 3rd floor of the Bubugao Plaza shopping mall. In the advanced depths of their delusion, they have persuaded themselves that they are an Italian restaurant. There is nothing, zero, zilch, niente Italian about the place. This is NOT an Italian restaurant by any stretch of the imagination.
Any real “Italian Expert” would probably know that Boston, Hawaii, Texas, Mexico and New Orleans (the supposed origin of the pizzas they list on their menu), are somewhere far to the west of Italy; or the east if you go the other way. They would also know that their signature dish, the “Thin crust pizza in Naples” as Google Mis-Translate translates for them is not in any way related or even on nodding terms with anything Neapolitan.
Neapolitan pizza is strictly defined (and legally protected). This shit comes nowhere even close. It is a close approximation of an OK pepperoni and olive excuse for a pizza. Neapolitan pizza does not contain cheap, nasty, mechanically retrieved meat sausage or bottled, dyed olives. In fact, it doesn’t contain sausage or olives of any kind. But it does contain tomato and buffalo mozzarella (Their sad excuse for a pizza doesn’t contain the latter. And shows little evidence of the former.)
But something concerns me even more.
So. My visit. Apart from one almost happy experience, It was much worse than I even anticipated. I rolled up at 17:39 trying to be ahead of the 6 pm rush. Good thinking. The place was almost deserted. I found a seat and a young waitress handed me a menu then told me my name. Seems she knew me from somewhere. Then she left me alone to peruse the section on offer – bliss. I was expecting the usual Chinese waitress intimidation..
The menu begins with set meals then jumps to drinks then deserts then hops towards pizzas, noodles and rice dishes. Finally it ends up with a sparse four mains (sadly listed under the idiotic American term, “entrees”.)
Ten minutes later, I place my order. I have decided to go for the “Naples Pizza” just because it is the one they trumpet. I also choose the “Fresh Porcini Rice”, basically because I don’t believe it. Then I throw in a salmon salad. I also ask for a glass of wine from their extensive list of three, none of which are Italian. All of which are crap. Seven minutes later my glass of red wine turns up – ice cold! ¥18
Italian experts who don’t know to serve red wine at room temperature? Still it does have the advantage that you can’t taste it.
First food to arrive is the salmon salad. Here it is pictured on the menu.
Apologies for picture quality. I was using my cell phone to take pictures of bad pictures!
Here is what turned up:
Yes. Some lunatic has decided to improve the salad by drowning it in Kewpie* Thousand Island Dressing. I hate Thousand Island Dressing! Bizarrely, it also comes with a bowl of soy sauce and wasabi. They are just chucking everything at it. Except anything remotely Italian. I push it to the side and ignore it. ¥23.
Next, at 18:07, my pizza turns up. It looks fine, but, as I’ve said, nothing like anything recognised as a Naples pizza. As I’ve also said, it could be a reasonable, if dull, pepperoni and black olive pizza. It ain’t dull. The first bite has me gagging and downing the glass of water they kindly provided me with when I sat down. This thing is so oversalted! I am very salt tolerant, but I feel like I’ve just exceeded the recommended annual dosage in one small slice of pizza. It is inedible! Utterly disgusting. ¥33
Probably I should have stuck with the “Larry Italian Pizza” which features both “blacl pepper beef short ribs” and”kungpao chicken”. As eaten by every Italian on a daily basis! What drugs are these people on? And who the hell is Larry? Their dealer?
Just as I fall into despair, the dish I have least confidence in turns up. My “Fresh Porcini Rice”. To my astonishment this looks nothing like its depiction on the website or leaflets. It actually looks like a reasonable Italian risotto. I take a tentative forkful and it’s delicious. Perfectly cooked and flavoured with those porcini. I’m happy at last.
But it’s a bubble about to burst. As I tuck in I begin to find foreign objects lurking within. Large pieces of raw, cheap, fatty bacon. This is not mentioned on the menu. Lucky I’m not a vegetarian. I wade through the rice digging out the intruders, then settle back to the rice and mushrooms. I still don’t know if the porcini were fresh or dried – I suspect the latter, but they were fine. However, they could have been washed a bit better. As I reach the bottom of the dish it gets grainier and grainer until I feel I’m eating sand.
I can’t say I was disappointed. I got more or less what I expected. Bad, non-Italian food. It wasn’t the worst meal I’ve had in Liuzhou (this was), but it ran a close second.
The diplomatic incident? Their latest promotional leaflet trumpets the joy of “Week cheddar cheese soup”. Another Google Mis-Translate disaster. The word ‘week’ gets thrown into the ‘translation’ as it is the literal meaning of the first of the two characters used to phonetically approximate “cheddar” (周打).
But this is not the major offence. The Chinese name is somewhat different. Wars have been fought over less than this – Hundred Year Wars
According to the Chinese the soup is 法国周打芝士汤, which translates as ‘French cheddar cheese soup’.
French cheddar cheese? France might be the only country in the world which doesn’t make cheddar cheese. I can hear Napoleon and De Gaulle turning in their respective graves. The good people of Cheddar probably ain’t too happy either.
Can’t they see the irony in claiming to be Italian experts then attempting to sell French cheese which actually originated in England? There is nothing Italian about it! Idiozia!
This is just ignorance. As I’ve asked before, what makes people open restaurants ‘specialising’ in food they know nothing about? It can’t be about making money. Few do. One pizza place in Bubugao didn’t even survive the first month.
*Kewpie is a major Japanese producer of bottled mayonnaise and thousand island dressing, among many other factory food products.