former french concession


It’s 9:30 on a Thursday night and Chinese and foreign jazz fans descend on the JZ Club in Shanghai’s former French Concession. Glasses clink and the splashing sound of cymbals ripple through a cabaret setting bathed in soft red light.

Andrew Field, an American historian, says clubs like JZ represent a return to Shanghai’s cosmopolitan past.

“You will see Chinese musicians playing with Western musicians or African musicians,” says Field, who works at nearby Duke Kunshan University. “Jazz really became the soundtrack of the modern city, not just in Shanghai, but worldwide in the ‘20s and '30s. It was the musical language of the city. It was about speed.”

'Shanghai Nightscapes’: Dancing, Drinking And All That Jazz

Photos: Frank Langfitt/NPR, JZ Club and Courtesy of Andrew Field

Nene, Shanghai

As China’s most international city, with expats from almost every country in the world, Shanghai has become quite a culinary melting pot. Sure, there are world-renowned chefs lend their names to high-end restaurants here, but the menus at so many of these places are similar to kitchens they run in other countries. But in foreigner-friendly areas like the former French Concession, passionate transplanted chefs have started opening smaller restaurants, bringing authentic cooking from their native countries to people hungry for a taste of home. And when it comes to Italian, Nene is where it’s at…

With a 25-seat dining room bookended by a small kitchen and busy bar, Nene offers a menu of classic Italian cuisine, making most everything from scratch, like their doughs and pastas, all under the supervision of Chef Santo, who goes out of his way to make all his diners feel like family. Here’s a look…

Their amazing lasagna appetizer…

Pizza topped with homemade meatballs using his mother’s recipe…

Spaghetti a la vongole with imported clams…

Fettucine alfredo with bacon and broccoli…

If I’d closed my eyes as I tasted every dish, I would guessed I was in Rome, not halfway around the world in Shanghai.

With an extensive wine list I found quite affordable, I could not have been happier with our meal at Nene. Just be sure to call for a reservation well in advance as Nene fills up very fast. Buon appetito from China!


47 Yongfu Lu

(near Fuxing Lu)

Shanghai, China